Category: Toronto

Studio Diaries: Justin’s Birthday

Studio Diaries: August 30, 2018

One of the greatest traditions that Justin and I have ever started was taking one another’s birthday off and celebrating the whole day. It’s like our own personal holiday and it is a delight!

This year we started Justin’s celebration by getting out to The Stockyards on St. Clair West for the best Chicken and Waffles you could ever imagine.  It’s the  chili maple citrus glaze that makes this wildly unique and memorable. I have a feeling we’ll be back every year!

After a meal like that, we were ready to do some walking! We found a fun and fabulous vintage store that was unfortunately closing for retirement. Justin was kind and let me do some exploring.

I love stores where there are unexpected treasures everywhere you look. I could have stayed there for hours but it was Justin’s birthday after all!

We decided to do a good long walk and had a great time taking in the neighbourhood sights.  I just love this bunny on a city utility box!

Of course, we made friends with a cat in the hood.

Amazingly we even saw a woodpecker! (Sorry the picture isn’t better – we just couldn’t believe we saw him at all!)

We walked through some beautiful neighbourhoods.  I had this idea that I’d love to get a map of Toronto and fill in all the streets that we’ve walked along. Walking the city is one of our very favourite things to do!

We came across an equipment rental place but we couldn’t help but notice that from this angle it looked like we were at the CNE (the Canadian National Exhibition) looking at a ferris wheel!

We were curious about the construction that’s going on now that Honest Ed’s is gone. We were worried they were taking down this lovely little row of Mirvish Village. It turns out they are refurbishing the entire street. Amazingly, people are still living in some of these houses while they do construction.

Of course everywhere we walked we looked around with the eyes of people about to renovate their home. We’re currently really focused on windows. This is very much what I’m thinking of for the extension of the studio.

We wandered through many neighbourhoods and saw a number of houses that are just dreamy to us. This house, for example, would be just perfect for our family! Can you imagine coming to workshops through that corner door? There’d be well enough room for the studio, us and my sisters!

After over 22,000 steps, we headed back to the east end of the city, which is where we live. We managed a good neighbourhood walk there too, coming around to a local brewery called Left Field to pick up some unique and interesting beers to try.



Our plans for the evening were to head out for a fancy dinner at a restaurant we’ve been dying to try. We ended up postponing that for a day where we were fresh and our tummy’s not so full. Instead we got nostalgic and went to a restaurant that we used to go to all the time when we first moved to this part of the city. Back then there were almost no options and Sarah’s was a haven for us. Unfortunately the food quality and atmosphere diminished over time and we haven’t been for years. On a whim, we decided to give it another shot and had a lovely night sitting on the patio in perfectly temperate weather celebrating this man, who is my joy and the best gift the Universe ever gave me. I feel like the lucky one on Justin’s birthday.

Toronto Adventures: Following the Call of Humber River Pilsner

You never know what will send you on an adventure! This week it’s beer! Well, beer and Father’s Day. Since Dad was traveling in Scotland on the actual day, we had plans to celebrate this weekend. It seemed like divine timing when I came across the launch of a new microbrewery beer named for the Humber River, one of my dad’s childhood haunts. He often uses the river’s clean-up as an example of how the world can, indeed, become a better place. Perfect.

Finding the Junction Craft Brewing

So on Saturday Justin and I went on an adventure out to Junction Craft Brewing. It’s on the other side of the city but this was an opportunity not to be missed. Admittedly we were a bit skeptical as we got off the bus and walked towards what we hoped was the location behind this big and unwelcoming wall.  The sign ‘beer’ gave us hope but it turned out to be a different brewery.

Junction Craft Brewing Getting Closer

As we walked a little further, we passed by these big logs and caught sight of an interesting old building. According to the brewery, they have made their home in what was originally a City of Toronto incinerator called “The Destructor.”

 Junction Craft Brewing Old Building

Junction Craft Brewing Incinerator

Yep, we were in the right place. Clearly it’s a lot more welcoming these days!

Junction Craft Brewing Building

We walked in and immediately enjoyed the ambiance of the location. Reclaimed old buildings are such treasures and this one is no exception. The high ceilings, the brick walls, the good wood, the still-industrial feel, all of it makes for a cool place to hang out.

Junction Craft Brewing Enter

We arrived just as the launch event was beginning.

 Junction Craft Brewing Enter Event

The feeling that this was just the right thing for my dad continued as we saw this…

My dad worked for Esso for many years. In fact, it was his first big job out of university. Clearly we were in the right place to find something special and meaningful for him.

Junction Craft Brewing Justin & Jamie
Of course we had to sample the wares and found the Humber River Pilsner to be a wonderfully clean, crisp beer that felt just right for summer. Even better was knowing that  the brewery had collaborated with Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, a charity which focuses on keeping our water clean enough for swimming, fishing and drinking. My dad certainly approves of those activities! The only disappointment was discovering that someone had misspoken when they said the beer was actually made from Humber River water.  Untrue. Perhaps the label art by Matt James, would make up for it. It does a beautiful job capturing the wonderfully Torontonian mix of the water, trees, fish and the subway passing by on the bridge.

At the event I was blown away by the having the opportunity to hear a performance by Juno-nominated artist Dayna Manning. Years and years ago I went to one of her concerts in a tiny twinkie-light lit venue upstairs at the Big Bop (as it was called then). It was intimate and beautiful and she stole our hearts.  On Saturday I was absolutely captivated even before I realized who this rare and beautiful voice belonged to. What a gift!

Junction Craft Brewing Beers

We decided to keep the adventure going and sampled the brewery’s regular fare. I rather enjoyed the Raspberry Sour and Justin tried out the Stationmaster’s Stout.

Arepa Pabellon

For the event, food was provided by The Arepa Republic, a Venezuelan food truck. Justin and I both tried out the Pabellon – shredded flank steak, black beans, fried sweet plantain and white cheese. Delicious!! The plantain in particular added so much to the life of this meal.  Memorable!

For years Justin and I have loved going on Saturday adventures. Heading out to Junction Craft Brewing  for the launch of the Humber River Pilsner gave us the perfect motivation to have a wonderful outing ourselves while bringing home something really special for my dad.

photo by Suzie Ridler

I can tell you that both the beer and the stories were a hit!

Find Inspiration: Yayoi Kusama at the Art Gallery of Ontario

I was lucky enough to get 2 ticket to the hottest show in town  – Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors at the Art Gallery of Ontario. It wasn’t easy. I tried to get a second set with no luck at all. Every time they’d release a new block of tickets, I’d be right there at the computer, poised and waiting. The gates would open and I’d immediately be 18,725th in line!

Something in this artist’s work creates that kind of a response.  Toronto is clearly embracing Kusama’s world of repetition, dots and infinity rooms.

This exhibit features 8 infinity rooms, most of which are white boxes with a single door, giving you no sign of what lies within. You wait in line, sometimes for 20 minutes, for a 20-second experience in the room. Here’s Justin and I experiencing Phalli’s Field (1965/2016). All of those polka dots can’t help but make  you smile. This field of soft sculptures is reminiscent of some friendly muppet-like world, which becomes rather odd when you learn that Kusama called this “a sublime, miraculous field of phalluses.”

I first learned of Yayoi Kusama’s work through the In the In Studio Series from the Museum of Modern Art (which, by the way, I can’t recommend highly enough).  In How to Paint like Yayoi Kusama, instructor Corey D’Augustine teaches how to create an infinity net. The process piqued my curiousity and I immediately followed along. It was immersive and engaging. I loved it.

It made it all the more exciting to see several of Kusama’s Infinity Net paintings at the exhibit. This is a closeup of one. It gives you a sense of the effect of the work.

Everything that Yayoi Kusama does seems to be just about to break out of the frame, overgrow the room, defy limitation.  It feels like if you close your eyes, even for an instant, everything will have multiplied by the time you open them again!

During the exhibit, this short film was showing but there were also notes that you could access it online through your phone while waiting – smart strategy! This, combined with the freedom to take pictures, even within the rooms, gave a great sense of freedom and expansion, like the show itself was able to reach far beyond the bounds of the gallery.

When they told us we’d only get 20 seconds in each Infinity Room, it was a bit of a shock.  How could we wait all that time for just a few seconds of experience? Would it be worth it? As we stepped into the glow of Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, I knew immediately the answer was yes. Though the beauty of this room made me want to stay forever, the truth is it takes only an instant for the work to give you all it has.  With a gasp, you are immersed. The experience is immediate and visceral. This brief moment may well be my favourite art experience of all time. I will carry it with me always.

Oh, the whimsy of a room filled with pink, balls, and polka dots! Once again, you just can’t help but smile.

There was virtually no lineup as we walked into Dots Obsession: Love Transformed into Dots, and that gave a wonderful sense of peace and ease, a welcome breath as we moved forward in the exhibit.

What totally different energy exuded from Love Forever (1966/1994). Justin and I stood on opposite sides of a white box and peered in to discover this amazing view! What fun! (Though I was afraid I was going to drop my phone in!)

Justin and I had rather different views of The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013). He felt it was so similar to Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity that he couldn’t help but compare and preferred the former. For me, it was the difference between sparkle and glow, the energy of a quick intake of breath and standing up straighter versus a deep exhale and letting go.

There was only one Infinity Room in which photos were not allowed: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016). Doesn’t the title itself take you someplace? I asked why no photography and was told it was at the request of the artist.  You can sneak a peek into the room at the AGO’s website.

The sculpture Life (Repetitive Vision) (1998) can at least give you a taste of the golden pumpkin colour that Yayoi Kusama clearly delights in.

In addition to the Infinity Rooms, there were paintings, collage pieces and sculptures by the artist as well as some wonderful photographs of her and her work throughout her career. I was particularly fond of Self-Obliteration by Dots.

And speaking of obliteration, the show concludes with The Obliteration Room (2002-present, installed 2018), which was fascinating. As you enter, your group is given a sheet of round stickers and the instructions to place each of the dots wherever you like.  We were to use them entirely, not a dot was to leave the room. It was hard not to save one for my journal!! But if I had taken it it, then there would be a way that the work would not be complete and I couldn’t do that.

When the exhibit began, this room was entirely white but you can see how much colour has already been added.  Only as you witness pieces that have been strongly covered do you start to understand the title of The Obliteration Room. As each item is covered with dots, it literally begins to disappear from view. It was fascinating to see – or not see.

The Infinity Room exhibit delighted and inspired me. I only wish that I had been able to get more tickets so I could share the experience with more of my loved ones. I couldn’t be happier that I am able to share the journey with you.

Planning on Paper at Gotamago

Recently I attended a Planning on Paper workshop with Kat Akerfeldt of Toronto’s First Post Office held at Gotamago in Toronto.  I was excited by the workshop’s focus on planning, particularly Bullet Journaling, and delighted to attend something in my neighbourhood.  The sun streaming in through a big beautiful window on a very cold day was a lovely welcome into this creative space.

The front of the building is a lovely shop with all sorts of printed treasures. Just beyond the storefront are two big tables, which were covered with a generous supply of the kinds of things we journalers delight in – washi tape, stamps, stickers and pens plus a bowl of the best gluten-free cookies I have ever had! Clearly this was going to be a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

To lay the foundations of planning on paper, Kat introduced us to three planning on paper systems: Getting Things Done by David Allen, Strikethru and Bullet Journaling. I was particularly curious about the power and simplicity of the Bullet Journal.

Kat explained the basic concepts and showed an incredible array of slides demonstrating how people individualize their calendars, lists and to-do’s. In one bullet journal, reading goals are turned into a beautiful page of hand-drawn books, each with space to write titles on the spines once a book is read. In another, Mason jar stamps become the perfect spot for weekly grocery lists or meal planning. When it comes to habit trackers, the volume and variety seem infinite!

At the end of the workshop, we were given time to actually create our Bullet Journal and, I must admit, I was at a loss. Cat was wonderfully approachable and we talked more about the core structure and why she has found it so useful. When I went home I visited  Ryder Carroll’s site (the inventor of the Bullet Journal)  and went through his introduction to the process, following along step-by-step on paper. That was just what I needed to ground myself in the process and the learning.

As I explored the Bullet Journal structure, I noticed right away that there were things that wouldn’t work for me, like the monthly layout, which just doesn’t fit with my visual logic. There were also things that would be very helpful to me, like having collections for all sorts of projects in one place. I was excited to find that I could also integrate my own process of weekly grid planning, which is great because if something is working, keep it working!

All in all, I am glad that Cat Akerfeldt and Gotamago introduced me to both the world of bullet journaling and a beautiful neighbourhood shop. I’ll look forward to many more shared adventures. In fact, I’m heading back as soon as they restock their owl stickers! Somebody snapped them all up before I got a chance to!

What systems do you use for planning? What helps you get stuff done?

Note: In Toronto? Check out Gotamago. Find out more about their upcoming paper-oriented workshops here.