Attractions & things to do for the kids in your life

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New street art around Corktown Common

For artsy kids

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A splash of colours at the right place!

Every week, I walk from Leslieville along King East to get to The Distillery. In October, I noticed an artist expertly drawing with spray paint on a pillar supporting the underpass, not too far from the Body Glitz Spa (497 King East). The following days, I brought my camera with me to follow the progress of the art piece which rapidly turned into four ambitious murals covering the four pillars, bringing a splash of colour in this otherwise grey part of town. 

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I'm thrilled because it will add to our visit to the fantastic Corktown Common. The murals are only a 3-minute walk from the Queen and Sumach streetcar stop (by Savoury Grounds coffee shop). Walking down Sumach, you get to admire a giant gnome on a building. Keep going, turn right on King and you'll see the murals. Then, a 7-min walk eastbound on King and down Lawrence Street will lead you to the fantastic Underpass Park and Corktown Common, a mere 200 metres further south (see the little map).

About StreetART

Here are photos of the making of the underpass murals. I had noticed that one of the persons involved with the project wore a sweater with StreetART logo. I looked it up and saw that it is an initiative of the City to embellish the town (and offer an outlet for artists). Each mural is signed by the thre artists Shalak Attack, Bruno Smoky and Fiya Bruxa.

In an interesting article by Anwar Ali (The new face of street art, Globe and Mail, Nov. 22), I learned that the murals are part of the Underpass Program, managed by StreetART.

Have you noticed paintings covering your local traffic signal boxes in the last two years? It is another StreetART initiative called Outside the box. How cool is that?

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If you arrive by Queen, you'll see the gnomes on Sumach Street. Walk to King then turn right.

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The first mural to appear features a woman surrounded by seas. Mother Earth?

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The second mural StreetART worked on features a young and urban Toronto, with highways and the new streetcar.

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Across the street, on the north side, the mural features a spectacular old man surrounded by references to an earlier Toronto.

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The fourth mural to be finished features a young child with the promise of a bright future thanks to a good education.

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Corktown, a boring neck of the wood no more!

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TOP-10 DIY gift ideas for mugs to make at the ceramic studio

DIY crafts | Pinterest

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Good time to go to a ceramic studio to make some personalized gifts!

Have you ever found yourself staring blankly at a white piece while sitting at the table in a ceramic studio? I have! (I'm talking about ceramic studios such as All Fired Up). Here are a few ideas of mug ideas to make at a ceramic studio found on Pinterest. There's more where it's coming from! Check the DIY fun boards: M of Mugs, P for Personal gifts and P for Personalized gifts with photos.

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TOP-10 suggestions for photo ops during school fairs

For parents | Pinterest | TOP fun lists

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For parents involved with the school council

As a member of the school council, my job was to organize the year-end family parties. Based on my experience, here are 10 cool ideas for photo ops during a fair. They speak for themselves but you'll find the links to their source on my Pinterest board titled: School Fairs: Photo ops. I also recommend you check my School Party & Fair & Fundraising board.

It can simply be a free activity within the fair, encouraging family to share it on the social media of your choice. If you choose to make it a fundraising activity, here are some suggestions:

1) You could charge a small fee for the privilege of using an ambitious decor.

2) People can pay for the right to take their photo with a special person (costumed principal, local celebrity or... a cute dog) 

3) A volunteer could be the official photographer with a decent camera and take photos of people who make a small donation. Special props or decor could be used. Another volunteer would note the email address to send the digital photo to the donor with some detail about his/her clothing (in chronological order, so the photographer can match the photo with the right email).

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TOP-10 fun things at Royal Winter Fair 2014

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Royal Agricultural Winter Fair 2014 is on from November 7 to November 16!

It is a wonderful event for animal lovers of all ages where the best cows, horses and other farm animals are competing, then to be sold in auctions. It is an occasion for the agricultural industry to feature all kinds of farm-related activities and products for the benefit of the general public.

I've attended the Royal Winter Fair on many occasions with my family and we've always come across cool activities during our visits but it was often by pure luck. The truth is that if you don't explore the attraction's website prior to your visit (a time consuming task), chances are you will have the nagging feeling you’re missing out on a great activity while you're attending another.

I sifted through the Fair's website to find the 2014 activities that seem of most interest to children. (Note that the link to the Fair Map is in the top right menu on their website.)


TOP-10 fun things at the Royal Fair (check their schedule at the door on the day of your visit!)

In the President’s Choice Animal Theatre 

1) Rabbit jumping!

I’ve never seen big rabbits jumping over tiny obstacles. This activity is offered on two days only: Saturday Nov. 8 at 2:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m, and Saturday Nov. 15 at 11:45 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. (Note that their activity Goats on the Go includes goats jumping and doing other tricks will be offered once, daily from Nov. 8 to Nov. 15.)

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2) President’s Choice Superdogs 

Offered twice every day. The dogs are so eager, it’s pure fun to watch them go. (Note that there will also be Jack Russell Races on the weekends: Sat. Nov. 8, 5:30 p.m.; Sun. Nov. 9, 3 p.m.; Sat. Nov. 15, 1:30 p.m.; Sun. Nov. 16, 11:45 a.m.)

3) Santa Claus and his live reindeer 

Santa will be at the Fair but only on Sunday Nov. 16 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.. Note that there will also be decorated Christmas Trees competing in the Sheridan Nurseries Winter Gallery

4) Mounted Police

Another unique offer is the Mounted Police on Tuesday Nov. 11 at 11:15 a.m. where we will watch and learn about this surprising side of Toronto Police.

In Hall B

5) Pizza Pizza Petting Farm 

With 60 animals, a big hit with every one. 

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6) Giant Vegetable Competition

In the Harvest Path (wherever that is! they don't explain on the map). When we visited, there was a 1093-pound giant pumpkin! Apparently the biggest one they saw at the Fair was 1414.6 lbs! The competition takes place on Nov. 8. The vegetables remain on site until the end of the Fair.

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7) Butter Sculpture Competition. Artists can be seen sculpting butter in the refrigerated Butter Sculpture Trailer (usually in the first six days of the Fair). In orevious years, after the competition, the winner got to create a new sculpture for the next three days. Try to tell your kids not to play with their food after that!

In Scotiabank Ring of Excellence

8) Many farm animal competitions take place in the barns during the Fair but two of them take place in the Ring of Excellence. The Rabbits and Cavies show is on Sunday Nov. 16 (your chance to see 600 rabbits and cavies!). The Poultry, Waterfowl and Pigeon show is also ineresting, featuring 800 birds. It is offered Tuesday Nov. 11 and Wednesday Nov. 12. (Note about the following photo: This photo was taken years ago, in a part of the Fair where we could admire the poultry waiting for the competition. I don't if it is still accessible.)

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In the Horse Palace

9) Different breeds of horses compete in the Horse Palace. While you’re there, play an i-SPY game with your kids, trying to spot as many horse-theme details as possible in and around the building. 

In the Ricoh Coliseum

This is the part about the Fair that most confused me the first times I visited the attraction. Most of the Royal Horse Show performances are ticketed events not included with the ground admission to the Royal Winter Fair (they cost around $50 per person but include ground admission). But there are moments when you can see Royal Horse Show shorter free performances in the Ricoh Coliseum. 

10) Royal Horse Show FREE performances

Friday Nov. 7 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Saturday Nov. 8 from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Monday Nov. 10 from 6:45 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Tuesday Nov. 11 from 8 a.m. to 12 noon amd 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Wednesday Nov. 12 from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Thursday Nov. 13 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 12 noon to 4:30 p.m.

Saturday Nov. 15 from 8 a.m. to 12 noon.

Sunday Nov. 16 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Pumpkin Parades! What a great concept!

Halloween

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The Pumpkin Parade fever is catching on in Toronto!                                                        

Many communities have found a way to stretch Halloween fun by organizing a pumpkin parade. The concept is simple. On the evening of November 1st, everyone is invited to bring their sculpted pumpkin to the local park, where they are arranged in an interesting display and lit, for everyone to admire. It usually starts at dusk and lasts a couple of hours. 

Apparently, it's the Pumpkin Parade taking place at Sorauren Park (east of Roncesvalles Street) which started it all, ten years ago. On their website, I read that "the Sorauren event has sparked similar events across Toronto, Montréal and this year in Upper Manhattan." 

I attended the event this year. The evening was cold and windy, probably not the best conditions for the parade but I still counted at least 1,200 pumpkins! Under the lamp posts, there's too much light to appreciate the candle lights and the carvings but when you make shadow over the most ambitious ones, it totally changes their look.

I left the event at 8:30 p.m. and the ambiance wasn't winding down. You can probably expect action until 10 p.m.

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5 TIPs to better enjoy Sorauren Pumpkin Parade                                                                    

• You don't need to bring a pumpkin but if you do, bring your own candle and preferable a long gas lighter so you don't burn yourself lighting your jack-o'-lantern. While you're at it, be nice and light up your neighbours' candles if the wind has blown them off!

• Bring a small flashlight for the kids so they can admire the carvings on the pumpkins without a lit candle. It adds to the fun of the exploration.

• There's no washroom on the premises.

• You will easily find free street parking all around Sorauren Park if you arrive before 6:30 p.m.

• The Ideal Coffee (221 Sorauren) closes at 7 p.m. but a 5-minute walk down Geoffroy Avenue to Roncesvalle, you'll find Timothy's (327 Roncesvalles, one block north of Geoffroy) and Tim Hortons (175 Roncesvalles, four blocks south of Geoffrey).

About other Pumpkin Parades

Kew Gardens Park

Last week I had noticed this sign on the waterfront of The Beach. In the Friends of The Beach Parks' Facebook page, there were some photos from last year's Candlelit Pumpkin Parade, taking place near the picnic tables in Kew Gardens Park (they are nested in the middle of the park). I arrived at the event at 9:15 p.m., after my visit to Sorauren, and it was over. I saw some fifty pumpkins displayed on the tables, some still lit.  

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East Lynn Park

East Lynn Park's Pumpkin Parade was in its 5th year in 2014. I think its layout makes it the perfect spot for such an event. I arrived there at 9:30 p.m. and volunteers were already loading the pumpkins into a City bin for compost. It seems that there were approximately 100 pumpkins in their parade.

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Trinity-Bellwoods Park

At Trinity-Bellwoods Park, they were at least in their second year of offering a Pumpkin Parade in 2014. Since the friends of this park are usually quite involve, I suspect it's a great place to enjoy this kind of event. And the path running across the park is perfect. 


Wychwood Barns Park

I was there for their Boo! at the Barns last Saturday. I saw on their Facebook page that they also organize a Pumpkin Parade on November 1st.

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Riverdale West Park

I just saw a sign in Cabbagetown, promoting their Cabbagetown Pumpkin Walk in Riverdale West Park. This park overviewing the Don Valley includes a paved path that is also very suitable for such a parade.


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Buy the book Toronto Street Art Strolls

Nathalie's tips for a smooth outing

After years of doing all kinds of outings with my children, I can assure you the secret to a perfect outing lies in the details, not the destination.

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