Once Upon a Blog

A long time ago in a country far, far away, there lived a girl from Texas who was a blogger. She traveled far and wide across her beloved adopted country and blogged about everything she saw with pure glee. After more than three glorious years, though, the fairytale came to an end and she returned to the great state of her birth very sad and very hot. Fast forward exactly one year and, well, funny how things just seem to work out.

By way of reintroduction, I’m Carmen and, obvs, “she” is me. In case you are just joining the party, I was lucky enough to spend three years living and working in Canada. While there, I traversed the country forward and backward; I learned new things; I met a motherlode of awesome people; I ate new foods; I saw things I’d never seen before (I’m looking at you six foot high snow drifts); and had the absolute time of my life. And blogged about it for all the world to read.

Once I moved back to the States, I stopped blogging. I missed it, but what was there to say? Houston is hot. You have to live inside an arctic cold blast-like air-conditioned bubble seven months a year. And, really, how many times can you talk about going to the Galleria without it sounding like broken-record time? Not that many. My momma always taught me that if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. So I didn’t. Until now, that is. The tens and tens of you who have been begging me to blog again were very persuasive, not to mention pushy; blog readers can be so demanding that way. And, really, who am I to deny you your happiness? 😉

It took a long time — nearly a year, in fact — for me to finally see that when life gives you lemons, you make a daiquiri. I mean, THIS IS THE SHOW, right? You can either live stuck in the past or get busy moving forward. So I pulled myself up by my bootstraps1, got out there like I always have and decided to live an awesome life, Texas or not. I finally feel like the old Carmen again. The bubbly, witty, laugh-out-loud girl who wants to experience as much as humanly possible has resurfaced and just in time. I’m making copious good friends; I’m dating very cute and very smart guys; I’m saving copious tax dollars2; and am finally interested in learning all kinds of awesome things about Houston and Texas again.

I’ve also had copious conversations with lots of different people of late who constantly ask if I’d done “this” or “that” in Texas. And every time, I found myself pretty much saying “actually, no”. Don’t get me wrong — I’ve traveled a *ton* of places, but I hadn’t done “this” or “that”; I hadn’t been “here” or “there” in Texas. In fact, I’ve never even been west of San Antonio and, trust me, there’s a *lot* of Texas west of San Antonio. I realized that I knew waaaay more about Toronto and Canada than most of its own inhabitants, and yet knew next to nothing about my own backyard. Ergo, I’m officially blowing the dust off of my rusty old blog; I’m going to traverse my place of birth and blog about my amazing state — the places, the people, the foods and the crazy things I see and find. We already know everything is bigger and better here, so I’m going to go check every bit of it out because that’s how I roll. I’m preparing to shake what my momma gave me because I plan to have one helluva Texas-sized good time on my adventures!

Photo courtesy of Dave Triomphe on Flickr. Because really…what other state could possibly look as cool as Texas in Bud Light 12-packs?

1 Because y’all know we all have boots down here, right?
2 And when I say “copious”, I mean “a freaking motherlode”.



Filed under She Gets Around

Last Time I Checked, Canada Was Not Overseas

If you were alive and kicking in the last 24 months, then you probably know that the midterm elections were held this week in the US. The only way you wouldn’t be aware of this is if your head was both pinned under a very large rock in the desert and you were away from any form of media., including, but not limited to, newspapers, television, radio, mailboxes, roadways, helicopters, etc., etc. Even then, I bet some candidate somewhere would have found you and stuffed a piece of campaign mail in your mailbox, because politicians are tree killers.

I voted early this year so as to avoid the horrendously lengthy lines that I knew would queue on election day and to avoid my vote not counting since I’d be voting absentee. When I went to vote, I didn’t have my voter registration card, so I used my drivers license instead. When I checked in, the precinct volunteer wasn’t able to find me on the Harris County rolls. She was elderly (by which I mean 95) and probably shouldn’t have been assigned to working the only laptop on site, anyway, but she didn’t know what to do with me and redirected me to the guy that was overseeing the voting at that location.

He looked me up and asked me if I’d had my federal ballot in the last election mailed to me and I assured him that, yes, I had voted absentee via a mail-in ballot because I was living in Canada. So he said “so you were living overseas?” to which I replied “well, I was living in Canada”. Long pause. He stared at me and said “right, so you were living overseas”. Longer pause. I stared right back and, in the sweetest voice I could muster said, “Well, I guess I lived overseas if you consider Lake Ontario an ocean”. Radio silence.

I don’t know if he got the point, but I got to exercise my right and he made me fill out some “Request to Cancel Federal Post Card Application” form in triplicate (!) afterward. Because, you know, I might have been trying to stuff the ballot box and you’re not really allowed to vote twice, at least not in Texas. 😉


Filed under Politics

The Little CBC Blog That Could

For nearly a week in June, the city of Toronto transformed itself into a city I didn’t recognize. In its infinite wisdom, the Canadian federal government decided that downtown Toronto should be the site of the fourth G20 Summit. Now, when I say “downtown Toronto”, I don’t mean some desolate part of the city with a handful of inhabitants that closes up shop at 5 p.m. On the contrary.

Stephen Harper chose the Metro Toronto Convention Centre — smack dab in Toronto’s downtown core — as the site of the G20, despite much ballyhooing from citizens, city government officials, and even the liberally-biased media (oh, who are they kidding — they loved it).  With guests such as President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron, President Jintao, Chancellor Merkell, President Medvedev, and a slew of other leaders, and their legions of delegates, and the additional invited heads of state from such economic powerhouses as Ethiopia, Malawi, Netherlands, Nigeria, Spain, and Vietnam, it goes without saying that Toronto turned into a police state. In other words, it was pure chaos.

I’ve done a lot of fantastic things during my time in Canada, but one of them now officially stands out among the rest. I don’t know if I mentioned it here, but I lived within one of the three G20 security perimeters, complete with a 5 mile, 10′ solid steel fence erected just for the occasion. To help chronicle the impact of the summit on ordinary citizens leading up to, during, and after the event, the CBC decided to invite ten community bloggers to write for their newly-created-just-for-the-summit G20 Street Level blog. Amazingly, I was one of the ten selected and, needless to say, was beyond thrilled.

As I was fairly busy traversing a city filled with 15,000 police officers imported from every other province in the country and being trapped by scores of said police officers in their finest riot gear, I did not  really have time to cross-post my CBC articles on my personal blog. In the meantime, though, you can check out my contributions on the CBC’s web site. You’re welcome.

Brace yourself for the best part, though: not only was I selected to write for the CBC, or to be interviewed on CBC Television during the summit (which I was — thrice), but our “little blog that could” recently received some serious accolades. We won a Canadian Online Publishing Award for “Best Community Feature” AND were named as a finalist in the “Community Collaboration” category for the Online News Association Awards!

Let us take pause for one moment to discuss the Online News Association Awards. We’re talking about competitors such as the New York Times. And CNN.com. And the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, AP, and NPR, to name a few. We were nominated in the category of “Breaking News: Large Site” and, for our category, were up against such journalistic monstrosities as CNN.com (for coverage of Haiti), the New York Times (also for coverage of Haiti), the Seattle Times, and Boston.com. Essentially, we were up against the big boys.

While we didn’t ultimately win, we were the only Canadian finalists among all those big boys which, in my humble opinion, is all kinds of awesome. Journalism. Innovation. Excellence, indeed.

While I certainly recognize that the whole “community blog” thing wasn’t my idea, I am certain that, for the first time ever, I played an itty-bitty role  in contributing to something seriously important. I’m happy for Canada, excited for the CBC, and extremely proud of myself.

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Two HUGE Things

I’m crazy busy but, because I don’t want you to miss me too much, I wanted to quickly let you know about two giganticly exciting things that happened to me recently. You’re welcome. 😉

First, and most importantly, I was one of ten Toronto bloggers selected to blog for the CBC during the G20 as part of the CBC G20 Citizen Blog Team! Not just a huge feat unto itself, but a huge honour, too. You’ll be able to follow all the goings-on of the G20 and the police state into which Toronto has turned, along with photos and videos from yours truly.

Secondly, I was in an earthquake today. Yeah, you heard me.  Toronto went and had an earthquake that measured 5.5 on the Richter scale. I mean, if I hadn’t thought I’d already seen and done everything there was to do in Toronto, I did after today.

I’ll be back here to chat again soon, but, in the meantime, I hope you follow me as I help cover the G20 Summit as a citizen blogger for the CBC!


Filed under I Love Narcissism, Toronto

The City That Opens Its Doors

It happens more often than not: you’re walking down King Street West past the Toronto Dominion Centre without realizing you’re seeing the work of one of the world’s great architects (in this case, Mies van der Rohe); you notice the Design Exchange on Bay Street, but don’t know that it housed Toronto’s original Stock Exchange from 1937 until 1983 and is still home to Canada’s first fluorescent light; or, didn’t know that Redpath was Canada’s first food trademark as you drive past the Redpath Sugar Factory while you’re stuck in traffic on the Gardiner.

One weekend a year, Torontonians stop and look (and learn) when Toronto throws open its doors. Doors Open Toronto, the hugely successful program that allows the public in to view hundreds of buildings that are typically off-limits to regular folks,was the first of its kind in North America. Modeling itself on the European version aptly named “Doors Open*”, Doors Open Toronto began ten years ago with a simple motto: open buildings for a day or two (no more) and tell the public they’re welcome to visit. The idea being that if  people looked more closely at the city in which they lived, they’d gain a better appreciation for the city itself.

And has it worked? I’d say. More than 200,000 people participated in Toronto’s 2009 event and organizers expect 250,000 attendees in 2010 (read: prepare yourself for very long lines). For history and building geeks like yours truly, it means a weekend of traipsing through Toronto at breakneck speed, not eating, not drinking (gasp) and maxing out both your SD card and water intake simultaneously.

Mercifully (and due to copious amounts of Vitamin Water), I made it to hit six venues at this year’s Doors Open Toronto. My feet were certainly tired and gnarly after running around for 48 straight hours, but for an event dedicated solely to heritage, architecture, and design, I don’t at all mind messing up my perfectly pedicured paws. And, because I know you are dying to know, am adding a quick recap of each building. You’re welcome. 🙂 A quick recap of Day One:

Redpath Sugar Factory, 95 Queen’s Quay East, Toronto , ON M5E 1A3
I grew up in Sugar Land, Texas, whose moniker came from the Imperial Sugar Company (which has long since passed on to sugar heaven). Therefore, it stands to reason that I’d live less than a mile from Canada’s sugar factory on Toronto’s harbourfront, drive by it every day on my way to work, and that it would be open for Doors Open Toronto. We learned how sugar is crafted (it’s from sugar cane, in case your head has been under a rock), how brown sugar is made (shockingly, it’s made from spraying white sugar with molasses — once for light; twice for dark), took a guided tour through the museum and parts of the plant via a video virtual tour, and got to lick sugar off our feet after a trip into the Redpath sugar shed. Said shed holds a whopping 65,000 tons of sugar and, even with my ginormous sweet tooth, I doubt I could consume that amount of sugar in a lifetime. Lastly, we got to meet the Redpath Acts of Sweetness Ambassadors (should out to Janet whom I’d previously met at CupcakeCampTO!) and have our picture made taken with the Redpath Acts of Sweetness truck.

After a brief pitstop at home to pick up my camera that I’d forgotten (thank SteveJobs I had my iPhone with me) , slather on sunscreen and change shoes, I was on to the:

City of Toronto Archives, 253 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON
Toronto has plenty of of stories of intrigue that highlight its past and present, and many of those stories are event dedicated solely to built heritage, architecture and design. The Archives have more than 1.2 million documents in their warehouse that is straight outta Indiana Jones and at which Doors Open visitors were able to gawk. Also open to the public for the first time was the Archives’ Conservation Lab. They demonstrated how they scan all the documents and, for the sake of argument, will just say that they’re way more sophisticated than my Canon point-and-shoot.

TTC Greenwood Maintenance Yard, 400 Greenwood Avenue, Toronto, ON M4J 4Y5
I’m a TTC geek. Yeah, they’re the expensive^; yeah, a lot of them are difficult; I’m definitely not a fan of waiting 25 minutes for the 510 streetcar but, since the day I arrived in Toronto, I’ve had a serious love affair with all things TTC-related. Those cheery and bright red streetcars get me where I need to go safely and with a smile and, it could even be argued, with a dash of style. Come on — everybody looks good in red! But Idigress.

When I learned that the TTC had not one, but two, shops open during Doors Open, I was more than wicked excited. The Greenwood Maintenance Yard is responsible for the maintenance of half of the TTC’s subway fleet: 1/3 of the T1 fleet, 126 H6 cars, and 44 H4 cars. I spent two hours there and every single TTC employee volunteering that day was heart-achingly kind. It could be because they don’t interact with the public every day like the operators do, or it could be that Brad the TTC guy had a little chat with them all in light of the TTC’s recent (and numerous) publicity gaffes. Just sayin’.

The public was treated to learning how the subway doors open, how the brakes work, how the lines are repaired and about one billion other cool TTC subway facts. I could go on and on about how much I enjoyed this site, but I’ll let you judge for yourself next year. 🙂 The only thing I didn’t like about the TTC sites was the fact that the Jane/Finch site was giving away little cardboard streetcars, for which I would kill, when Greenwood didn’t give anything away![ed note: I was planning to go to the TTC store in Union Station to see if they were selling them, but the store closed the weekend of Doors Open Toronto! Gypped yet again!]

For more TTC Greenwood Maintenance Yard goodness, check out my very exciting “Doors Open Toronto” Flickr set.

A quick recap of Day Two:

Stantec — Former MacGregor Socks Factory, 400 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 1E7
The beautifl building occupied for decades by MacGregor Socks has been transformed into a heritage timber post and beam building. Stantec, a health care and educational architectural firm reclaimed a piece of the city’s industrial history by designing a flexible, high-quality workspace that clearly fosters collaboration, sustainable design elements, and, in the spirit of Doors Open Toronto, a commitment to city building. The small, open space facing Spadina Avenue is used as a space to support local artists; each quarter, a new artist is chosen and Stantec pays 100% of the cost of the installation. <3!

We were treated to tours that included information on the raised floors (you can even see the miles and miles of wires flowing underneath the flooring!), the natural lighting that washes that entire building in sunlight, original bricks and flooring and Stantec’s water conservation strategies. One of the things I found fascinating was Stantec’s encouragement and support for using public transit: they have showers in the building, they supplement 100% of TTC passes, and they provide access to two Zipcars in case employees who take transit need to duck out for meetings. A company that *truly* believes in reducing carbon footprints and not just talking about it in a brochure.

The Historic Walls at CAMH, 1001 Queen Street West, Toronto ON M3J 1P3
The CAMH Historical Walls are the perimeter brick structures which were built by unpaid psychiatric patient labourers during the 19th century at the former Asylum for the Insane ( now the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)). The southern section dates from 1860 and the eastern and western walls date from 1888-89. We were treated to a guided tour of the walls where the work and contributions of patients who lived and died behind the structure were highlighted. The bricks include the oldest physical examples of psychiatric patients’ labour from 19th century Ontario, now 150 years old, and obviously of immense historical and architectural value. Etchings carved into the walls 9and visible to the naked eye) by asylum inmates, and other unique physical markers representing patients’ history – including bricked in windows and an old railway track – were pointed out and, of course, I took photos. Seriously good stuff.

The Gladstone Hotel
After running around like a chicken with my head cut off for two straight days, I was exhausted. I’d never been inside the Gladstone Hotel, so I made my way over for a tour. Luckily, self-guided tours were possible, so I took the opportunity to photograph the inside of this historic hotel on my own, read parts of the (very) long guide, checked out the joint, and bolted.  Built in 1889, the Gladstone is the oldest continuously operating hotel in Toronto. Its architectural details are Greek, Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance and these periods brought the hotel back to life in 2002 when it was gutted and completely restored.

Doors Open Toronto was absolutely one of the highlights of my time in Toronto. To borrow a quote from Toronto Star writer Christopher Hume in describing the event, “suddenly this is Toronto the Bold; Toronto the Daring; Switzerland run by New Yorkers.” I couldn’t agree more.

*and now called European Heritage Days
^ the most expensive in the world, actually

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Canadians And Their Social Values, Parts Trois and Quatre

I have been away from the blogosphere for a wee bit too long (and for good reason that I’ll explain in my post mañana, so come back!), but I would be completely remiss if I didn’t pass along the third and fourth articles discussing Canadians and their defining social values. This particular post is a long one, but stick with it — I promise you’ll thank me for it and there may just be a surprise at the end of the rainbow. 🙂

As a Texan in Canada, I feel I have to talk about this series, primarily because of the rarity with which you see articles so good. It’s not often you read a series so good that you’re compelled to devour the entire thing from A to Zee (no, not Zed). And even more rare are those occasions when both the sun and moon are aligned with Jupiter and you’ve just discovered a four-leaf clover, that you actually want to write about what you’ve read. Luckily, such is the case with the series about Canadians and their social values written by the obviously brilliant strategy team at MacLaren McCann (specifically Heidi McCulloch (@heidimcculloch) and Lee Chapman (whose Twitter handle I don’t know, but will find out!) in partnership with the Canadian Marketing Association.

I’ve previously blogged about part one of the series that addressed Canadians’ individualism, and part two of the series which astutely canvasses the topics of tolerance and acceptance. Today, I bring you parts three and four.

The third part detailed Canadians’ quality of life and was simply fantastic. It eloquently summed up the main reason I love living in Canada so much. Sure, it’s expensive as hell, but if you like spending time with your family without feeling like you’re going to lose your job or can pursue your passion because you you know you’ll have healthcare no matter what that passion may be, then Canada’s your place.

Now, without further ado, part three of the series.

Defining Value #3
“One difference between Americans and Canadians is that Americans are still waiting to win the lottery. Canadians live as if they have already won the lottery.” Michael Adams, Fire and Ice, 2003.

20% of Canadians cite Quality of Life as top source of pride in being Canadian. (Macleans Canada Day Survey 2006). Quality of Life is one of Canadians’ key defining values.

Quality of life, simply put, refers to how good life is. People throughout the centuries, and in various parts of the world, have defined quality in their lives in rather distinct ways.

Among developed countries, certain variables are consistent in defining quality of life – life expectancy, purchasing power, literacy and education, housing, employment, finances. Against these variables, in study after study, Canada has always landed in the top ranks. For example, in the 2009 Mercer Consulting annual Quality of Living Survey among 215 cities, Vancouver ranked 4th and Toronto ranked 15th. In all of the Americas, Canadian cities of Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Calgary dominated the top spots.

Where does this come from?

• Canada is endowed with nature’s majesty, in lakes, mountains, fields in our backyard. Our physical closeness to nature likely inspires a more mellow approach to life and living.
• Since after the Great Depression, Canada instituted policies that would ensure that its people maintained certain standards of living – pensions, health care, protection from unemployment and other social support. Having a secure safety net gives people a certain reassurance that no matter what goes wrong, all will be well; in general, people have less to be anxious and stressed about. Unencumbered, people pursue a certain way of living that is more attuned to relationships, connections, rather than simply getting ahead in a rat race.

Points of Evidence
Macleans annual Canada Day poll offers up interesting proof points about Canadians’ distinct version of quality of life.

For Canadians, there is more to life than work: Canadians place A REWARDING CAREER behind Freedom; Family Life; Being Loved and Being Canadian on their list of things that they value the most. (Macleans Canada Day Poll 2006)

Asked which activities they enjoy most, Canadians cite: A nice meal with my partner; Having a few hours for myself. (Macleans Canada Day Poll 2006)

Canadians believe that Experiences, not Things, make one happy. When asked, what is the best thing that happened to you in the past year, milestones such as weddings, births, pregnancies, vacations, graduations rose to the top of the lists. Moving into a new house or getting a new car sat at the bottom of the list of best things. (Macleans Canada Day Poll 2006)
Canadians don’t care for keeping up with the Joneses. 29% of Canadians say it’s important that people admire the things they own, compared with 36% of Americans. (Fire and Ice, Michael Adams)

Marketing Reference

The brand believes in keeping healthy, exercising, and drinking eight glasses of water a day. They’re not just getting people to buy their clothes, but to embrace the lifestyle they promote. And that lifestyle, outlined in their manifesto, includes beliefs like, “Friends are more important than money.” Their mission: Lululemon athletic creates components for people to live longer, healthier and more fun lives. If we can produce products to keep people active and stress-free, we believe the world will become a much better place. Lululemon has successfully tapped into a Canadians’ unique view of what a good life looks like.

Molsons’ Made From Canada
The Made From Canada spot pays homage to Canadas’s natural beauty, and the uniquely Canadian impulse to enjoy it as much as we can. Copy: Fact is, its this land that shapes us. We know we have the best backyard in the world and we get out there every chance we get.

Lee Chapman, Strategic Planner, MacLaren

And finally, article four, which tackles why Canada is just so peaceful (Hi, how about the “no guns allowed” rule? ;-)).

This post signals an end to our series on Dominant Canadian Social Values. We’ve outlined 4 Canadian Values: a unique balance between individualism and collectivism; an attitude of tolerance and acceptance; a heightened appreciation for a quality of life; and finally, an essentially peaceful predisposition.

We hope these guideposts will help you when crafting communications that can relevantly connect with and engage Canadians.

Defining Value #4
Borne of a legacy of cooperation and compromise, Canadians are essentially a peaceful people living in a peaceful place. An underlying sense of comfort and security manifests in our ideology with regards to peacekeeping and also is reflected in our business dealings. Further, it may be what allows us to attend to what we refer to as ‘higher level values’.

Points of Evidence
Canada truly and factually is a safer place to live. The murder rate in Canada is 1.85: 100,000 people, as compared to the U.S. at 5.6:100,000. The U.S. incarceration rate is approximately 6 times higher than in Canada; in fact, Canada’s murder rate has fallen by more than 40 per cent since 1975.

And perceptually Canadians feel safer as a people. Canadians afraid to walk at night is down almost 5% since 1975 and Canadians are more worried about Bullying than Terrorism.(MacLean’s Magazine Canada Day Report 2006)

How this Manifests
On Peacekeeping
: When Canadians are asked about the traditional role of the Canadian military, they speak with pride about Canadian participation in United Nations peacekeeping missions. Over the years, more than 125,000 Canadian military personnel have served on peacekeeping missions for the United Nations – more than any other country. (cbcnews.ca, Canada: The World’s Peacekeeper)

In Business: Our peacefulness extends to our engagement style regarding business dealings. The 2008 Bribe Payer’s Index, prepared by the global civil society organization Transparency International, ranks Canada at No. 1, tied with Belgium—meaning our companies are the least likely in the world to engage in payoffs. Only four per cent of Canadian business people have ever bribed high-ranking politicians or political parties, according to the survey, well below the international average of 13 per cent. (MacLean’s Magazine Canada Day Report 2009)

On ‘Higher-Level Values’: Canadians embrace social responsibility. Almost 7 in 10 Canadians (68%) pay attention to issues related to Corporate Social Responsibility; 52% have consciously refused to buy a product or a service from a company not conducting business in a socially responsible way. And Canadians see the global environmental issue as second only to healthcare as a pressing issue facing the country (note that this ranking has bounced about a little with economy factoring in of late). (Social Responsibility in Canada, Ipsos Reid 2003 and 2006)

A Marketing Reference
Need we look any further than the spiritually-based success story that is Lululemon?

But in the interest of not repeating ourselves, let’s reference Marc Thuet’s restaurant in Toronto instead – Conviction Restaurant. Conviction Restaurant offers recently rehabilitated ex-convicts a chance to turn their lives around by helping give patrons “the most unforgettable eating experience of their lives”. As testament to the success of the concept, planning for a second Conviction location in British Columbia is currently underway.

Thanks again for your valuable time and attention!

Heidi McCulloch, V.P., Senior Strategic Planner, MacLaren McCann

So there you have it. Four defining reasons that makes Canada, and Canadians, great. Longtime ATGAIC readers already know that I love Canada, but just to set the record straight, I don’t in any way hate the States; on the contrary. Rather, it’s more like trying to fit into your favourite high school sweater; even though it might not fit quite right anymore, you’ll always have a certain fondness for it and you have to buy something new. Who knows, maybe I can figure out a way to live in both of “my” countries, by which I mean if you are a Canadian sugar daddy looking for a cute American girl, you know where to find me. 🙂

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My Own 50 Reasons To Love Toronto

Just when I thought I couldn’t love a city any more, Toronto Life magazine goes and publishes an issue — and a video! — with 50 reasons to love Toronto now.

You all know that I could easily come up with about one bazillion reasons to love Toronto, but in the spirit of the article, I’ve decided to list my own 50 reasons to love this fan-freaking-tastic city! And these are just the ones I came up with on the fly! I guess it’s not so hard when you’re in love.

1. When the sun shines and lights Lake Ontario up as blue as a sapphire
2. The cuisine. Enough said.
3. Art Gallery of Ontario
4. Nuit Blanche
5. The awesome Metro food writer, Stephanie Dickison
6. Independent bookstores that are still in business
7. A festival for every neighbourhood and ethnic group in the city every single weekend during the summer
8. That people call me back when they say they will
9. The Toronto Reference Library
10. Allan Gardens
11. How serious its people are about recycling. A PhD is required to figure it all out. Thank god I live in a building. 😉
12. Toronto Cat Rescue*
13. Wychwood Art Barns
14. The Distillery District
15. That I can count on one hand the number of times someone’s been rude to me here
16. How people generally do not care about your race. Seriously, America — get the eff over it
17. The 401, better known locally as the Highway of Heroes
18. Mother’s Dumplings
19. The astonishing number of museums: art, sugar, shoe, police, and of course, hockey
20. Toronto Botanical Garden
21. Honest Ed’s
22. The sheer number of cupcake shoppes
23. Beaches, parks, hiking trails, and ski runs within a two hour drive
24. The weather, by which I mean no humidity
25. Nuit Blanche
26. Luminato
27. Toronto International Film Festival
28. Canada Reads
29. CBC headquarters
30. Second City
31. Frank Gehry
32. Volleyball on Sunday at Ashbridges Bay
33. Brunch. That is all.
34. The Mies van der Rohe-designed TD Canada Towers
35. Doors Open Toronto
36. The Junior League of Toronto
37. DJ skating parties in winter at Harbourfront
38. That gay people can get married here
39. Winterlicious/Summerlicious
40. The Drake Hotel
41. Trinity Bellwoods Park on the first “warm” day of Spring
42. The DVP when the trees are changing
43. Downtown coming into view when I drive south on the DVP every single day. Not a day goes by that I don’t smile when I see it.
44. The lookout from the Don Valley Brick Works
45. Watching the brightly coloured kayaks bob and float in Lake Ontario
46. How quickly the city clears the roads when it snows
47. Massey Hall
48. Double-decker tour buses in Summer
49. Even though the Toronto Maple Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup in 40+ years, 99% of people here are still die-hard fans
50. As much as they hate it, how damn nice Torontonians are, especially my amazing friends

I don’t know what Toronto Life’s 50 reasons are, but I can’t wait to find out!

P.S. I’ll link out tomorrow — I’m too tired right now. Must. Go. To. Bed.

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