Joust About An Unbelievable Good Time!

imgres-2Why is being a tourist in your own city something that never tops the “list of things to do”?  Just last week I read Amy from Joey and the Owl is moving from New York City to the suburbs, and in her farewell post to NYC she commented how few tourist attractions in the city she’d actually been to.  It made me pause to reflect on the many incredible sites and attractions that Toronto has to offer, practically on my doorstep.  I do make an effort to visit the museums and art galleries, and I have a theatre subscription to both Mirvish Productions and The Young People Theatre, but there are so many places I’ve left undiscovered.

Like, Medieval Times.

Last week Carol and I, along with our families, ten of us in total, trekked through the congested streets of downtown Toronto in frigid arctic temperatures to arrive at the Exhibition Place, home to Medieval Times.

Top 5 Reasons You Should Visit Medieval Times

  1. Betcha Didn’t Know That!

While Medieval Times is simply a fun way to spend time together as a family, it’s also educational, and arguably much more enjoyable than just reading about the Dark Ages.  Servers are aptly referred to as serfs or wenches.  There are no french fries or burgers, only fare that would be typical of a gluttonous medieval feast.  The castle is dark and the lighting used is minimal to replicate the primitive castles of the era, but as Carol’s young son pointed out me, luckily this castle has heat.

  1. Is It Real?

Where you sit at Medieval Times matters, unlike a traditional theatre.  Each seating area represents a knight, and it’s your duty as the king’s guests to cheer on your knight to victory as he risks life and limb in this tournament of heraldry.

Luckily for us, we were seated in the front row and had a clear view of all the action.  Seating is based on first come, first serve unless you’ve chosen to enhance your experience and for a fee.  Carol and I spent some time surveying the various levels and with all seating areas, the view is clear and the knights do make a considerable effort to engage the crowd regardless of position.

Our six boys were sitting at the edge of the seats for the entire spectacle.  Wearing their crowns, and waving their black and white flag they cheered for our knight, who impressively captured their attention, Carol’s heart (until her son stole her intended flower), and several rounds of the tournament.  imgres

It was during the car ride home that my boys peppered us with questions, namely, “was it real?”.  I love that they are young enough to be swept away by the magic of theatre and make believe.  I think it added to the overall awe of performance and how much we enjoyed it.  I explained to the boys it’s just like a play with actors who practice, and many behind the stage hands that make the experience come to life.  An interactive show like this is a good introduction to live theatre if you have a child who isn’t likely to sit through a lengthy play with minimal action.

  1. A Feast Not Only For The Eyes!

I imagine that one doesn’t go to Medieval Times solely for the food, but it’s worth noting that while the fare isn’t going to top any “best of” lists, it’s tasty enough and was a hit with the kids.  Garlic bread and a tomato bisque were followed by a half roasted chicken with spare ribs and a potato wedge – all served warm and eaten without utensils.  My boys rejoiced!  I have to point out that while the food may not be winning any awards the service does.  Guests’ dietary restrictions are readily accommodated, like our nut allergies.  The vegetarian dish, 3-bean stew with fire roasted tomato and brown rice, was served to 2 of our party and while they ate with spoons, they seemed to enjoy it just the same.  Be sure to ask for a take-out container to take home your left overs!

Halal meals are available upon request.

  1.  It’s Joust About Unbelievable!

The jousting tournament was actually quite riveting and within minutes, Carol and I found ourselves cheering alongside our boys.  The jousting lances splinter when they’re clashed and the swords spark with each cross, eliciting lots of excited squeals.  On select days in April your child can experience Knight Training where they can learn first-hand how treacherous life as knight can be and how dangerous the weapons truly are.  All Knights-in-Training will be knighted by King Carltos in a special ceremony.  Reserve your space here.

  1.  Because It’s Fun!

Let’s put aside all the lessons in history and theatre for a moment, and dwell on perhaps the most surprising for me.  Medieval Times is fun!  It’s really fun!  How liberating it was to not only allow but encourage my rowdy group of boys to scream, cheer and boo!

And because I am a mom, and this is something that all moms want to know, I will share that the restrooms were plenty and clean.  And because I am a mom, and this is something that all moms want to know, there are several gifts and treasures to be purchased before, during and after the show – plan accordingly.

Be sure to visit the Medieval Times website for discount codes, birthday specials, and a complete overview of the show with information about medieval life and times.

Little Lords and Ladies Medieval Reading List 

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Medieval Jousts and Tournaments by John Green

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Medieval Castle Sticker Picture by A.G. Smith

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Knights and Castles by Rachel Firth

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Sticker Dressing Knights by Helen Davis

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You Wouldn’t Want to Be a Medieval Knight by Fiona Macdonald

What We’re Reading: February 2015

 

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From Beth-Anne

Elfrieda and Yolandi, two misfit sisters from an ultra-conservative Mennonite town outside of Winnipeg are at the centre of this critically acclaimed novel by Canadian writer, Miriam Toews.   At 17 years old, Elfrieda travels to Europe to pursue her dream of becoming a concert pianist. A protective, Italian agent that opens a world of opportunity, fame and culture embraces her. She spends decades travelling the world, playing the piano with such affection and magnetism that she ensnares the hearts of men and women alike. Her author-sister Yoli, transplanted to Toronto via two husbands and two children, flies home to Winnipeg to be at her sister’s side after Elf’s latest suicide attempt. Toews explores the complexities of suicide, depression, and relationships and the gamut of emotions that entangle when Elf begs Yoli to help her die. The writing feels anything by contrived, and the widely fluctuating feelings that Yoli expresses cut deep. Toews has been honest that writing this book proved to be cathartic in helping her to heal following the suicides of her father and sister.

I was ready for some levity following the intensity of All My Puny Sorrows and it came in the form of Professor Don Tillman. Don utilizes his keen scientific prowess to develop a survey to effectively weed-out unsuitable potential wives through a series of charming dating scenarios. Did I mention that he has Asperger’s? Eventually, Don does find his ideal wife in Rosie and together they move to New York (book 2) but all goes predictably haywire when Rosie finds herself unexpectedly pregnant. The plot is expected and the characters fairly flat but sometimes a laugh and an escape is all you’re after. If that’s the case, these books do the trick nicely.

I enjoy reading autobiographies and often find myself gleaning inspiration from those who’ve achieved their hard-won accomplishments. After a string of politicians, I have returned to the entertainment industry with Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. Sophia Loren is incredibly humble recounting her glamorous life. She begins by describing the atrocities she witnessed as a child growing-up in war-torn Italy and moves on to describe her ascent to fame and fortune as a leading lady of Italian cinema and eventually Hollywood. Throughout her recollections she is quick to acknowledge the team of talented individuals supporting her successful career and handful of loyal, passionate friends and family members who helped her to climb the ranks of the Hollywood elite. Despite opportunities to salaciously gossip about golden age celebrities, Loren chooses to be gracious and kind. Maybe her contemporary “Ms. Lollo” could take a lesson or two.

From Nathalie

doubleA Double Sorrow by Lavinia Greenlaw

I read this one twice.  A Double Sorrow is Greenlaw’s retelling of Chaucer’s Troilus & Criseyde.  It’s hauntingly beautiful, and the images from her poems lingered with me long after I had finished it.  Of Criseyde, she writes, “She leads a winter life.”  So stark, so rich in its brevity.  Her Troilus is less in love with Criseyde than he is with the idea of the stories that will be told of his love for her; he’s after fame.

If he ever fears he might not win her

He falls into some inward place of trees

Refusing any path that does not make of itself

The right answer.  Hope will emerge

Like a gentle green creature drawn from green shadows

To steady his gaze.

A fawn, soft in the wild,

Followed only by more of its kind.

After I had read the book, I wanted to read Chaucer’s original.  It was late on a Saturday night, and I asked my husband to stop at the bookstore on our way home from dinner out.  I climbed back into the car and laughed that I never, in all my life, would have expected to be doing a late night run for Chaucer.  He looked at me and said, “Oh, honey.  It’s really not as much of a stretch as you might think.”  Well, I still haven’t finished Chaucer’s telling, having grown very quickly irritated with all of the endless drama of courtly love.  Greenlaw’s telling, though, had me wanting so much more.

ChimneySweepers-cvr-thumbAs Chimney Sweepers Come To Dust by Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce is one of my all-time favourite characters.  She’s a sleuthing eleven year old, and she solves many of her cases with chemistry, at which she is extremely talented.  Precocious, fearless, grounded and not a little naive, she’s thoroughly endearing.  This installment of her sleuthing adventures brings her to Canada, which added a wonderful touch to these very Anglophilic country house murders.  If you have not yet met Flavia, begin at the beginning (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie) and revel in the joy to come!  There are eight books in the series, and I have loved every one.

 

 

The Where, the Why, and the How: 75 Artists Illustrate Wondrous Mysteries of Science

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This beautiful book is published by Chronicle, and the idea was to pair an illustrator with a scientific question, and to enrich information with illustration.  I really loved the combination of quick hits of science paired with illustrations that brought out aspects of the topic that the words did not always touch upon, and found myself making note of all kinds of trivia:

  • Humans have more in common with ants than with any other species (division of labour, roles in society, high level of social dependency).
  • The size of a squirrel’s brain increases during caching season.
  • The number of “dees” in a chickadee’s call describes the size of a predator.
  • Scientists recently discovered a spore that was about 250 million years old within a salt crystal; the bacterium was revived.  Immortality is theoretically possible.
  • Fingerprints help us grip wet things, which is why our fingers shrivel and make deeper channels when they are soaked in water.
  • Yawning is only contagious in humans capable of empathy; contagious yawning is not observed in children under five.
  • When we are deprived of sleep, proteins begin to lose their structural integrity, and they unfold, building up in the cells and becoming toxic.  You can die from sleep deprivation because you are essentially being poisoned.  During sleep, special “cleanup molecules” (their imprecise words, not mine!) help to reverse the unfolded protein response.
  • The DNA in our cells does not age.  The human species has maximized its chances to pass on traits, but only as a species, not as individuals.  Individual aging is irrelevant to the continuation of our species.

From Carol 

how of happinessI can be a bit of a sucker when it comes to self-help books, but The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyurbomirsky does boast a difference:  this book is written by a research psychologist and professor who takes a scientific approach in analyzing data on what makes people happy.  The result is a research-based understanding of what happiness is, and what practices help us achieve it.  Lyurbomirsky asserts that if happiness were a pie, 50% of it is determined by a genetic set-point (some of us are born perkier than others), 10% is influenced by circumstance (rich or poor, healthy or ill), and a whopping 40% is based on our intentional activities, ie. within our control!.  How so?  Based on her research, she identifies the various ways in which people have increased their happiness – ranging from living in the present, to practicing gratitude and positive thinking, to investing in social relationships, to committing to your goals, and much more.  She also provides readers with guidance on how to choose which of these practices to pursue themselves for the greatest happiness impact.  I recognize myself in some of these practices, and feel inspired by others, and am thoroughly enjoying this read.

 

 

Toronto Fashion Find: Coats by Mary Ellen for the Perfect Custom Coat

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This gallery contains 5 photos.

Years ago Carol once said to me, “You vote with your dollars”. It’s something that stuck. I live in Toronto, a close walk to two major streets that are lined with shops, restaurants and general services. Even if it means … Continue reading

A Round-up of Beauty Finds

From Nathalie

Pour le Monde Perfumes

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You know that I love perfume with a passion bordering on obsession.  I’ve collected perfumes that smell like books, paper and libraries, and I’ve hosted a perfume-themed book club.  Little wonder, then, that when the chance came to sample a new line of all-natural perfumes, I jumped at the chance.

Pour le Monde is a line of fragrances created by Wendi Berger, because when she was pregnant, she struggled to find a fragrance that was not synthetic.  The perfumes are animal cruelty free, vegan and pregnancy safe.  Even better, 10% from each bottle sold is donated to charity (National MS Society, Cancer Support Community and Guiding Eyes for the Blind/Heeling Autism).

The perfumes are crisp, light and crystal clear, and I loved wearing all three.  Envision is a blend of lavender, bergamot and peppercorn; Together is a woodsy floral; Empower is a unisex citrus.  These perfumes tick all the boxes for me: mom-made, all-natural and charity-supporting.

 

From Beth-Anne

Artist Liner – Make Up For Ever

It’s no secret that I love Make Up For Ever but this Graphic Liner is something that every make-up lover needs to have in their bag of goodies. First off, its ultra fine-tip makes applying a clean and precise line easy-peasy for beginners or those intimidated by eye make-up. If you have a flair for the cat-eye or like to embellish it, this liner is the one you want to be using, and just like in true Make Up For Ever fashion, the colour is perfect and won’t smudge.

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Proraso Sandalwood Shaving Cream

I may or may not have a history of sneaking my husband’s razor and shaving cream. I don’t do it often but when I do he always seems to know that I’ve used it. He’s like that princess from that fairy tale, the Princess and the Pea. You can’t really blame me because I love the light fragrance of this foaming cream that is rich in Vitamin E so my legs feels nourished and not scaly or dry. It’s made with natural ingredients including sandal oil and karité butter. Proraso also carries a line of men’s products for beard and moustache care in addition to shaving and brushes.

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Mondor tights

What does a taxi driver, men’s micro-shorts and figure skating all have in common? Mondor, a hosiery company from Iberville, Quebec. Mondor sent me a pair of tights to try-out. I will admit to being skeptical that they could be that good. I’ve never been loyal to any brand of tights. I have always found that they never fit according to the chart on the back: the crotch too low or the waistband too high and cutting. Inevitably they all seem to lose their shape and the cheapies always run even with the lightest touch. Mondor has made a convert out of me. The tights fight beautifully, maintain their shape and are durable. It’s no wonder they are a favourite with athletes, including dancers and figure skaters.

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Yoga Jeans, Harem pant

Have you seen these Harmen pants from Yoga Jeans? I am obsessed and can’t wait to get my hands on a pair. I have a feeling these will be my go-tos come the spring/early summer when relaxing on weekends. If you’re more stylish than I am, these would pair well with heels and a blazer. I just need to grow a few more inches to pull that look off!

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Disclaimer: Make Up For Ever and Mondor both sent me their products to try, but trust me, I only write about what I love and what I think you’ll love too.

Building a Maternity Wardrobe from Scratch by guest blogger, Aly Tsourounis

Our guest today is Aly Tsourounis of the blog The Newlywed Life, a lifestyle blog for the healthy living. Aly is a soon-to-be mom and she opens up about the surprises (shocks!?) of being pregnant, the information overload and the food cravings. Today Aly shares her favourite fashion finds for the expectant mom. Be sure to follow Aly on her blog as she chronicles life as a first-time mom.

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Building a maternity wardrobe from scratch:

When I first got pregnant I was thrilled with idea of getting bigger and I planned on always showing off my perfect basketball bump in designer denim and fitted shirts. Spoiler alert, bumps aren’t adorable until at least month five and pregnancy boobs need their own postal code, plus maternity clothes are darn expensive. After some trial and error, a few unfortunate outfits and some credit card “discussions” with my husband, I have created a focused yet cute maternity wardrobe (see selfie photo evidence below). Here are my steps on how to create a maternity wardrobe from scratch.

Step one – Identify your maternity wardrobe needs: On a weekly basis, I need four different “outfit types” – work, weekend lounge wear, workout wear and date night / night out. There is certainly some cross over but highlighting the different occasions that I needed clothes for helped me focus and discouraged me from buying too many striped long sleeve t-shirts when I only need one.

Step two – Assess your current wardrobe: I spent a weekend afternoon going through my entire closet and determined what would last me through my pregnancy and what needed to be put into storage. Things that stayed: blazers, cardigans, long tank tops, a couple stretchy tops / dresses and most of my workout gear. Be harsh, now is not the time to keep your skinny jeans or fitted LBD.

Step three – Create a list and a budget: This step involves numbers and is a bit boring but it is key, especially since you will be wearing this clothing for such a short period of time. My biggest money-saving tip is to consider sizing up in certain items, especially basics. For example, I bought a number of plain black and white size large tank tops from Forever 21 for $5 / a piece and I wear them daily. Why spend $50 when the $5 one can do the trick? This also allowed me to splurge on a pair of dark denim designer jeans that I wear three times a week. Do your research and don’t get sucked into the everything must be maternity mindset.

Step four – Go shopping!: The last step is obviously the most fun! There are tons of options out there when it comes to maternity clothes, from the traditional to the trendy so be sure to take your time shopping and don’t spend all your money in one place! I have found great pieces from a number of stores including Target (Liz Lange), H + M (regular), Motherhood Maternity, ASOS Maternity, Forever 21 and Ani & Wren.

Step five – Own it: Experiencing pregnancy is a beautiful thing but it can also be really hard to see your body go through so many changes. Having clothes that make you feel good can make a huge difference but remember, you wear the clothes, the clothes don’t wear you. So to all the pregnant mamas out there, hold your head up high and push those bellies out!

Hitting the gym

Hitting the gym!

Date night!

Date night!

Work wear

Work wear

Building a Wardrobe by guest blogger, Iva Grebesic

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Our guest today is Iva Grebesic of the popular fashion blog, Falling in Style. If Iva looks familiar it’s because you’ve probably seen her on Steven and Chris or Cityline sharing the latest and greatest in functional fashion for every day life. In addition to being a contributor Yorkdale Style Council, Fashion Magazine Style Panel and Brazen Woman, she is a mom to 4 busy children. Follow Iva on Instagram where she shows that women of any age can be fashionable.

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Thank you for that wonderful introduction. When building any wardrobe it is an investment – in time and money. That investment needs to work for us and in today’s busy world work for multiple occasions. I am a firm believer that we all need some key pieces in all our closets and today I’ll tell you what mine are. The one thing I want everyone to remember is that basics are a starting point to build upon. When buying anything think of FIT, everything in our closets should fit properly. If it doesn’t, no matter what a great deal it was or how little we paid, it won’t look good on us and we won’t wear it. A deal is only a deal if we wear the clothes.

Even when selecting the basic items in our wardrobe everything should be a reflection of who we are, clothing is just a way of expressing ourselves. Life is too short to be wearing bad outfits. To me that means no woman’s personality is defined by an oversized t-shirt and yoga pants.

  1. Dark Denim Jeans – Every woman should own one pair of great jeans. They should be a dark wash because you can dress them down or wear them out for a fun night. When it comes to cut everyone is different, I prefer a boot cut or skinny. Another great option is a trouser jean which, like the name suggests, is cut like a great pair of classic trousers. If you want to get out of your comfort zone try a pair of boyfriend jeans.
  2. A Classic Blazer – I own way too many blazers (I’m going to say between 15 or 20) but you only need one, just don’t tell my husband. I would recommend a navy blue one or black. A neutral blazer can be work with jeans, pants, skirts and dresses. It takes a casual outfit to the next level and makes you look pulled together.
  3. Little Black Dress or LBD – before I go further I am going to say it doesn’t have to be black but a dark neutral colour, navy blue, dark grey or a rich brown are all great options. I recently bought the perfect LBD from Pink Tartan. If you are finding it hard to find the perfect dress I would recommend Dress Mavens (dressmavens.com) a perfect bespoke option.
  4. Dress Pants – you can also call them trousers or slacks. The style you pick is based on your body type but one good pair should launch a thousand looks. Pair them with blouses, sweaters, cardigans or even t-shirts. The possibilities are endless. My favourite colour? It has to be a classic pair in navy blue.
  5. Pencil Skirt – I find a pencil skirt universally flattering, no matter what your shape there is one out there for you. If you are not in a corporate environment I say ditch the black or navy blue and try a fun colour or pattern. You already have a LBD and a pair of dark neutral slacks so have some fun!
  6. Classic Pumps – colour options when building your wardrobe may seem limited but will offer investment pieces that will last years. So for pumps, pointy toe or almond toe heels in black or nude will offer versatility.

Once you have the basics add jewelry, pretty tops with graphics and pretty details and enjoy. Never take yourself too seriously, you’ll miss all the fun.

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