Hello friends! I’m reaching out looking for your opinion; I’m in the process of converting this blog into a full-fledged site and I’m looking for domain name suggestions. Comment below before 11:59pm on Sunday July 22nd and if I end up choosing your name, there’s an issue of Toronto Life’s Annual “Where to Eat Now Guide” in it for ya ūüėČ

Thanks for your input!

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Back to school, back to school, to prove to Dad that I’m not a fool…

Calling all lovers, strangers and friends! Thanks for stopping by the blog, and thanks for *cough* not noticing the WordPress template. Who are we kidding, OF COURSE you noticed the template. It’s a constant thorn in my side, every time I look at this site. But there is help! The Girl’s Guide to Web Design is offering a scholarship to their web design program, and this is the exact impetus I need to get LiveWorkExploreToronto chugging along!

After years spent backpacking through Europe and South East Asia, I realized there was a much broader network for foreigners when they arrive to metropolis like London and Edinburgh. Places that newcomers could look to for help finding jobs, accommodations and fully embracing life and all that the city has to offer. Toronto has been called a global city, on par with New York, London and Tokyo, and yet the network for welcoming young professionals is lacking.

With the scholarship, I can inject the site with the life it so desperately deserves; a live job board, a mailing list for weekly events in the city, a community board where newcomers can arrange meetup and discuss life in Toronto. The First Class edition of the program would suit me very well, and I am keen to learn as much coding as possible to make my vision for LiveWorkExploreToronto a reality.

So here’s how the competition works: Visit this link and scroll down the page to see my name Daniela L. and this blog “LiveWorkExploreToronto”. Click on the photo and then ‘Like’ my entry. Pass it on to your lovers, friends and hell, even strangers. If I win we will be on our way to creating a network for young people arriving in Toronto to get the most out of the city!

Oh yes, and as part of the competition, they require that I reveal one secret about myself, and here it is: I wear a silk scarf in my hair and eye shades to bed. There. Now that I have bared my soul, please go vote for me!

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How to get a great apartment

Finding “the one” is challenging, heartbreaking, and thrilling. It can take weeks, months even. It tries our patience and makes us throw our arms up in exasperation. But then one day, sometimes when you aren’t even looking for it, love hits you with the subtlety of a brick and you know finally where you belong (actually this process is starting to sound familiar…)

You’ve found the one great apartment in Toronto that is going to change your life: get you that dream job, give you extra space to practice the yuke, and saves you money on rent to help set up that side project you’ve been procrastinating about starting. Only problem now is that there are about 17 other applicants who want the place as much as you. Here are a few tips on how to land that amazing apartment (and keep it).

1. When you go to meet the landlord for the first time, bring references. This will go a long way to showing them you are serious. Also, if you have seen photos of the place and are pretty sure you already love it, it wouldn’t hurt to also bring some kind of deposit.

2. Most of us find listings for rooms and apartments online on sites like Kijiji and Craigslist, which means the first point of contact between you and the person who will ultimately decide if you get to live in your dream house or not is email. This is your place to shine. Be dazzling. Be witty. Win over your future landlord with your fantastic personality because you only get one chance to make a first impression. Include a whole bio about yourself, and be honest. Do you love to cook? Great! Means you will be using the fire extinguisher regularly and they should keep it up to date. Are you learning to play the tuba on weekends? Shows initiative and you should probably get dibs on the soundproof room. The point is that this is your opportunity to introduce yourself, and let the face on the other side of the screen get some insight in to who you are. The other important thing that an in depth email will do? Distinguish you from the other 96 applicants for the apartment.

3. This one is particularly important if you are looking for a room in a shared house. Pay particular attention to house rules already in place and honestly evaluate whether you can abide by them or not. Consideration for your roommates will go a long way in the long run if you can play by their rules, and will keep you in a happy home for a long time. Are you laid back about your cleaning schedule? If you can’t handle Monica Geller who wants to have all common areas clean at all times then maybe this isn’t the home for you. Does your partner spend A LOT of time at your place? If so, then make sure your other roomies are¬† cool with that; nothing takes up space in the living room than a barnicle on the couch playing Wii all day.

Good luck on your quest for a happy home! Keep these tips in mind and you will be saying home sweet home in no time!


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Hipster survival guide

One of the most interesting parts of coming to a new city is ingratiating yourself with the locals and adopting, or at the very least, observing their habits and tendencies. If you’re living in downtown Toronto, then you have undoubtedly seen the Hipster. These are the Schwinn-riding, vintage-shop clad group that tend to assemble in Kensington Market by day and Ossington Ave by night. Should you find yourself drawn to this crowd, I would direct you here to adequately adapt the lifestyle (and fashion sense) that this group embodies.

A few notable mentions of variation from ‘the hipster’ versus ‘the Toronto Hipster’; while Hipster-ism states that one should renounce meat and most animal bi-products, Toronto Hipsters are much more elitist when it comes to food than other cities. (To be fair, this truth can be applied broadly to most Torontonians; simply put, we are food snobs.) There are several hoops that a dish must jump through to be considered ‘awesome’ in a hipster crowd; locally sourced, using obscure ingredients and prepared by a relatively unknown chef (that is, unknown until the hipster crowd makes him famous on the Toronto food scene, after which these hipsters will be onto the next up-and-coming chef and say things like ‘ya, I used to go to —– Deli before all the 905ers took over.’)

Another thing about the Toronto Hipster that makes them easy to spot: they will likely be grad students at U of T (or for bonus points, they will have gone to school in Montreal, hipster capitol of Canada!) studying anthropology or philosophy, and will amble through the streets of the city (or if you’re lucky, at your dinner party) saying things like ‘don’t they know I’m a U of T grad student, not some Ryerson undergrad!?’ (That actually happened. To me. A former Ryerson undergrad.)

To make sure you’ve got a solid understanding of the hipster ethic, print out the bingo card and take it with you next time you sit in a local coffee shop on Queen West. When you’ve successfully completed your card you’ll have learned two things; 1) you’re in the right part of town, and 2) you managed to find that coffee shop ‘before the 905ers took over.’ So throw yourself headlong into one of the most elite sub cultures the city has to offer. If not for the ironic t-shirts alone…

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How to shake off the winter

Ah, Mother Nature can be a cruel woman, can’t she? This week’s snow squall effectively put the kibosh on my spring cleaning whirlwind that I started up last week. But I should have known better; living in Toronto (or just north of Toronto to be accurate) all my life I should know that these seasonally warm March days are just a wolf in sheep’s clothing, dressed up in a jean jacket and a silk scarf. Nonetheless, spring will eventually arrive, and I’m here with open arms eagerly awaiting its arrival. Join me won’t you, in shaking off the long winter months and ushering in the warm sunny days, if only in spirit for the time being.

Fire up the BBQ

For some true blooded Canadians (and foodies alike), the BBQ is an omnipresent cooking utensil, even in the dead of winter. My mother in particular pays little attention to the subzero temperatures while she swaddles herself in goose down and continues to roast red bell peppers on the Que in the middle of January. But for most people with an aversion to frostbitten fingers, the grill goes into hibernation mode as soon as the first snow fall blankets the city. So light up the charcoal and throw some burgers onto the grill, throw back a few cold ones and invite the neighbours. Also a great way to meet the neighbours! *Bonus points for a luau theme with leis and coconut bras*

Take a walk down to the Lakeshore

It helps to remind me that spring will eventually arrive. There is usually quite a lot of commotion down by the lake, so even if you have been hibernating for the winter (a hobby that I am want to partake in) a trip down to the water energizes me for some reason. Maybe its the wind in my face or just the general shaking off of rust from my winter bones, but the waterfront does something for me (get down there before Lakeshore starts filming)

Sign up for softball

The quintessential spring sport (and a nostalgic personal favourite of mine) baseball is the one thing that truly signifies that spring has arrived for me. Sign up with Toronto Sports and Social Club¬†either as¬†an individual¬†(great way to meet people) or gather a team and really show your competitive side. If you’re not athletically inclined, you can sit on the sidelines and cheer on our Toronto Blue Jays from the cheap seats from just $14. My personal way to enjoy the game is cat calling the players from the balcony seats and pulling my best dance moves, trying to get some face time on the Jumbotron. This is usually fuelled by at least a few over-priced beers ($10!!) but it’s up to you how you want to squander your youth.

Lighten up

Literally and figuratively. I’m in such a good mood when the nice weather starts to be consistent, there’s nothing I love more than the sunshine on my face. So strap on a smile and go for a walk in a new part of town and discover what you’ve been missing all winter long. If that alone won’t do it, put on some light and happy tunes on your iPod and take a walk to your local market and pick up some locally grown¬†fruit and veggies. I’m usually pretty thrifty in all that I do, but I have been known to splurge on food items;¬†lamb is one of my favourite meats, and nothing says spring to me like BBQ’d lamb. With just a squeeze of fresh lemon and a wee bit of salt. A side of local veg or a salad… YUM.

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5 free things to do in Toronto that are actually cool

Discover your new favourite indie band

Toronto is the home of indie music (shhh! don’t tell that to Montreal!) and there are no shortage of bands that are giving free performances on any given night of the week. One of the best free gigs in the city happens Tuesdays from 8.30pm at the Horseshoe Tavern hosted by infamous Toronto radio DJ¬†Bookie from Edge 102.1 Other good places to look for gig listings is the free local papers, EYE Weekly and NOW Magazine.

Take in a free flick under the stars

Every summer there are a host of, well hosts, that open up their parks and offer free outdoor¬†movie viewings. Some have themes (Retro Movie Night, Action/Adventure) some set up snack vendors to help with the authentic film experience, while others are more geared towards family-friendly (read: animated) selections. Whatever the movie is, you’re sure to have a good time; bring a blanket and some popcorn and you’re on your way to a freebie day out! Screenings are, for obvious reasons, a seasonal activity; watch this space for updates regarding¬†venues¬†announcing their film line ups as summer approaches. The usual venues are Dundas Square, Harbourfront and Downsview Park.

Host a potluck picnic in the park

Choose from any of Toronto’s gorgeous parks (personal favourites are High Park, Trinity-Bellwoods, and almost anywhere on Toronto Island, although for the last one you’ll need to pay for the ferry, so not exactly free). Invite your friends, colleagues, neighbours and bring a frisbee or soccer ball and pass the afternoon away eating and basking in the sun. If you’re the adventurous type, bring a BBQ and some beers; just try not to sell yourself out by being too rowdy. Public drinking without a license is not legal in Ontario.

Take in some culture

The Art Gallery of Ontario offers free admissions to the gallery every Wednesday after 6pm. The AGO has done some renovations in the last few years, and the new Galleria Italia is a gorgeous addition that should not be missed. Bring your camera. The Canadian Opera Company offers a free concert series where you can take in an eclectic array of artists on most Wednesday and Thursday afternoons at 12 pm. Tickets are first come, first serve so arrive early and join the line. And¬†if it is a long wait, don’t complain! It’s free opera for¬†crying out loud! Ticket prices start at $70 for most performances.

Explore the Historic Distillery District

Easily one of my favourite places in the city, but then again I¬†am a history major and have an affinity to large, well-maintained industrial-era buildings. But surely it can’t just be me, as the Distillery District attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. From the cobblestone pedestrian streets (completely closed to traffic, yay!), the beautifully restored buildings, and gasp!- it’s also home to the Mill Street Brewery makers of the delicious Mill St Organic-¬†the area is visually stunning. If you tire of the relentless charm, there are galleries, live theatres, unique cafes, jewellery, clothing and design boutiques that are more than willing to sell you their wares.

Overall, Toronto can be an expensive city, so you need to be crafty to seek out the freebies (and cheapies) as they come along. Luckily I’m a frugal ninja, so check back regularly for my other glorious inexpensive finds!

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