My ‘Hood: Rachelle


I live near Mount Pleasant and Eglinton, which I like to think of as a small nook of the city that’s still slightly under the radar. Some people call it Mount Pleasant Village, I like to call it the really great strip that has pretty much anything you need and more. It is home to amazing small shops, great eats and unique boutiques, where you can find everything that’s just a little bit different. 

A weekend doesn’t go by without a family outing (dog in tow, who gets tied up outside) to the very authentic French bakery, Thobors Boulangerie Patisserie Café. Being from Montreal, I can say this bakery rivals the best when it comes to pastries and breads. I always go for the classic plain croissant (hands down, the best in the city!), hubby opts for the Danish aux abricot (Danish pastry filled with apricot) and our son goes for the richer pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant). 


We never leave without a couple of sesame baguettes (voted Toronto’s best baguette in Toronto Life Eating + Drinking 2011) to go. These have just the right blend of crisp and chewy texture. Throw on some butter, sip on a café au lait and you may just feel like you are in Paris. The owner Marc Thobors, a Parisian-trained bread baker, is typically hard at work in the kitchen (he can be seen kneading dough through his peek-a-boo window), but he always comes out to greet a friendly face. Oh, and did I mention that all of the staff speak French fluently, so I get to practice!

We shop for our produce and specialty food items at Culinarium, a gourmet food store, specializing in locally produced Ontario food products and culinary events. They have a great selection of seasonal produce, cheeses and organic milk (Harmony in glass bottles is our milk of choice). They also offer really unique cooking classes and events, as well as vegetarian and meat share programs. I love their recipe of the week feature (recipes can be found in-store on postcards or online), which is designed to help you get one locally focused dinner on your plate each week without all the fuss of planning, searching out recipes or travelling to multiple stores to get groceries. The Roasted Squash Soup with Chipotle Aioli Drizzle is one of my recent faves.


With all this eating, I need to get a little physical sometimes. I usually opt for an ‘ohm’ fix at Yoga Plus (Eglinton studio), a hop skip and a jump away from my place. Christine is my go-to instructor for incredibly relaxing, yet challenging Hatha classes. When I want to get my cardio on (and weather permitting), I usually go for a brisk walk with my dog in the glorious Sherwood Park, truly a green oasis in the city. 


There are great trails, open spaces to throw a Frisbee or ball around, spots to have a family picnic (or make out!). And if you have a pooch, this is literally doggie heaven, with one of the city’s best off-leash trails. If you have kidlets, there’s a terrific playground and splash pad in the summer.


My hood is such a great area for me and my family that I sometimes feel like I never want to leave. I love supporting small shops and local businesses without having to get into my car.
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First jobs: Alana

To continue our first jobs series, Alana tells us all about the joys of working at a specialty ski and outdoor apparel shop.

Other than babysitting for my neighbours, my first “real” job was in the retail industry when I was 15. I worked at The Sign of the Skier for three years, selling ski jackets, hats, gloves and accessories in the clothing department.

Every three weeks we were required to attend product knowledge meetings about the mechanics of how each jacket was made. I knew coats inside and out – literally. 

I could tell customers how waterproof, windproof, breathable and durable each coat was, and why. I was also taught the importance of layering, and which fabrics should be layered where. Not to mention advising on which gloves, hats, snow pants and long underwear were the best bang for your buck. 

I knew this Helly Hansen performance jacket intimately. 
It was always pretty fun to see the look of disbelief on customer’s faces after explaining the inner workings of a coat they were interested in. They couldn’t believe a kid could know that much information about one product.

The best part about working at The Sign was the fact that I worked with my mom, twin sister and two best friends. That’s not to say that we loved working after school, but it definitely made it much sweeter that we could work together. One of my all-time favourite memories was in the spring when we had no customers and things at the store slowed right down. My friends and I would play practical jokes on each other… until one went terribly wrong. 

It was kind of like this, only not as composed.  

We’d hide behind the racks of clothes and jump out to scare each other. One time, a friend and I were hiding in the pant rack when a customer came and started flipping through the pants. We froze and stayed silent, hoping he would go back downstairs. But he didn’t. 

He saw us hiding in the pants, looked at us weirdly, and walked away. I was too embarrassed to talk to him, so my friend dealt with the aftermath. My boss was not impressed. 


My first job was a good experience. It taught me the importance of happy customers, a good attitude, team work and many other qualities that have been paramount in my growing career. 

Media, Darling: Ilana Banks

Ilana Banks is a producer for CBC News: Entertainment, where she works with a dedicated team of journalists to produce uniquely Canadian arts & entertainment stories.
Banks cultivated her love for all things entertainment and pop culture related as the first high school intern at MuchMusic and has never looked back. Since then she has worked at CNN, directed a documentary in the Sudan, produced a youth-focused current affairs show at CTV, and various CBC Arts News programs.

Ilana working her magic with U2 and James McAvoy

Twitter: @IlanaBanks

How can someone grab your attention with a pitch?
I will certainly return a phone call or an email if a pitch is specifically tailored to our team. What does this mean? A pitch that understands what we do and how we do it. We are not here to sell a product or event, but if you have a cool event or pitch with a news hook that you have researched, then we can tell the story.

Another critical point: we are a national news network. We report on stories that must appeal to Canadians, not just Torontonians, so craft a pitch that includes information about how your story idea could be of national interest. Another excellent way to grab my attention? Offer our team something unique – some type of special angle, access, or a way to involve our reporters in the story. We are looking to take our audience behind the scenes and reveal a story that they cannot see on another show or network.

What do you find most useful when dealing with public relations professionals?
I almost fell off my chair a few weeks ago when a publicist sent a confirmation of our interview with the time and exact location in the building where our interview would take place. She even told me what the room looked and how many windows it had, so our camera man could bring the right lighting kit. I know this doesn’t sound revolutionary but this almost never happens, yet it is so simple and so useful. It is always best to provide as many details as you can, the less surprises, the better, for all of us.

What is the biggest mistake PR professionals make?
Not tailoring a pitch to our network and news programming. Very few name our reporters or display any knowledge of our programming or previous stories.

Your pet peeve?
Everything I mentioned my previous answer. Oh, and getting pitches for the show our team used to produce but has been off the air for years! My other pet peeve is when a publicist tries to control the angle of our story. I understand their job is to protect their client, but when you are approaching a large news organization like CBC with a story, there has to be certain amount of trust and understanding that we are looking to provide a balanced and accurate news story.

Any other thoughts you’d like to add?
I love when a PR professional really “gets it” – when they have taken the time to do a little research and we can work together to get a great story out to Canadians.  

Fashion-able: Spring Trend Watch

Each season, the fashion-forward watch the runways. Whether sitting in the front row or behind their computer screens, they observe the latest designs from talented designers, mentally noting which pieces they can personally rock. Ultimately, from The Row’s precise androgynous tailoring to Proenza Schouler’s pajama-inspired gear, we can choose only a few pieces to add to our ever-growing collections.



We’ve outlined the top three trends that we’re digging (and digging into our wallets for) for the spring 2011 season. Use this guide to help you make your own decisions – it won’t be easy to choose! 


1. Maxis

If hemlines rise during times of depression, then 2011 should be a very happy year. That’s right, it’s time to move your micro-minis aside to make room for longer styles.

Luxe Label: Reach great lengths with A.L.C.’s Pleated Long Skirt ($693). The accordion-style maxi comes complete with an unfinished edged hem and elastic waistband. Made of lightweight woven polyester, this pleated skirt with ruffle trim is a perfect style basic that’s anything but. 


Cheap & Chic: Nasty Gal’s Pleated Maxi Dress ($78) offers a retro feel on a modern silhouette. Partially lined, this flowy dress has a full rayon pleated skirt, and cinches at the waist with a sash belt. From day to night, in this frock you’ll be a real maxi knockout. 


2. Floppy Hat

The floppy hat is not only this year’s “it” accessory, but it also the best shot you’ve got at getting street-styled. So wear this ’70s comeback head topper and smile for the camera. Bianca Jagger would be proud.

Luxe Label: For a look that’s all casual chic, try Rag & Bone’s Estelle Hat ($150) on for size. This retro-inspired accessory comes in a gorgeous tawny beige wool, with a wide brim and deep crown. The cotton lining will keep you feeling cool and fresh, while the style screams boho-chic. 

Cheap & Chic: Beat the heat in style with ASOS’s Catarzi Felt Floppy Hat ($47). Made of 100 per cent wool with a contrast band, choose this accessory in this knockout shade of cherry red. Trust us. This is one hat you’ll wear even on good hair days. 


3. Tribal Print

In past seasons you’ve gone black, but now it’s time to go back with bold colours done up in equally daring Aztec-inspired prints.

Luxe Label: Return to your tribal roots in Twelfth St. by Cynthia Vincent’s Long Ruffle Slip Dress ($429). For a colourful take on the tribal trend, wear this silk maxi dress in Zulu print with adjustable spaghetti straps and a ruffled hem. Done up in shades of blue and red, the punch of colour will work on so many skin tones. Try it.


Cheap & Chic: Embrace the call of the wild in Pepe Jeans’ Tribal Printed Sheered Bandeau Maxi Dress ($73). This vibrantly patterned maxi dress with multicolour stripes and shapes has a belted waist with a tassle, and as cool a ruffled hem as the dress above (but for a fraction of the price). With a bandeau-style top, this look is all fashion Aztec warrior. 



Luckily, with spring comes some killer style that will break you out of your winter blues. Two more months to go!

Yum, yum: Delicious soups

We’ve been chatting lots about cold weather noshes, like coffee and hot chocolate. We asked the crew on the fourth floor about another delicious way to warm you from the inside – soup. There are a million varieties of soup and a hot, steamy bowl is just the thing to make you feel warm and cozy when the snow is blowing outside. 

Our favourite picks were a surprising mix of restaurant faves and recipes from mom. Enjoy!

Alana: The absolute BEST soup I’ve ever had was at Auberge du Pommier. Their Cappuccino de Truffe soup is served like a cappuccino (obviously), but filled with pureed mushroom and truffle soup with velvet shank cream and a hunk of parmesan cheese (that you put in your soup to melt). It’s also accompanied by a delicious Parmesan biscuit. It’s pricey at $19, but in my opinion, worth every penny, especially for a nice treat. You won’t find a better mushroom soup out there – trust me!

Debra: I adore the lentil soup at Mashu Mashu in Forest Hill Village. It’s hearty, thick and great on it’s own or with pita and hummous. I used to live across the street and loved going in regularly to get this soup.  

Rachelle: The Senagalese Peanut Chicken from Soup Nutsy. It’s filling, spicy and has tons of flavour. The crunchy peanuts are a nice touch. Soup Nutsy bowls are always awesome, and this is one of the best.  


Lara: I’m not a very big soup person, it just never appeals to me. However, if I do have soup, it is from a few places. I like the pea soup from United Dairy Bakery. I also dig a good bowl of pho, but haven’t yet found a great vegetarian option. Any suggestions?

My favourite soup is my mom’s incredible curried cauliflower soup. You wouldn’t know its cauliflower, and the drizzle of honey on top is a not-too-sweet surprise and cuts the curry. The rich flavour comes from how long the cauliflower is roasted for. Yum.


Michelle: I am not really a huge soup person, but I do love a classic chicken noodle soup once in a while. I mainly eat soup when I am feeling sick, and I will make myself Lipton Chicken Noodle soup and break up a lot of soda crackers into the bowl and let them get a bit mushy. For some reason it is the only thing I can eat when I am feeling under the weather. It makes me feel all warm and cozy so I can rest and get better quickly!


Carly: When in culinary doubt, I see only two options – Google Martha Stewart or head to the nearest Pusateri’s. This gourmet foodie shop has the best PB + J party sandwiches, red velvet cupcakes and asparagus soup. Made with puréed asparagus and a little something spicy, this green soup will fill your daily veggie requirements. Add some cheese, and trust me, this is no cup of Campbell’s.


Christina: My favourite soup is A. Walters’ (a.k.a. my mom’s) homemade potato leek soup. The name doesn’t sound appealing, nor does it look particularly appealing, but it tastes fabulous. It’s thick, a little nutty and warms the heart on a cold winter day. Added benefit? Both my brother and sister aren’t fans, so it leaves more servings for me when I go home for a visit. Ma Dukes is usually great about making extra (thanks, Mom!) and sends it back home with me. 
 
Abby: I am a huge Thai food fan, so I regularly crave the shrimp lemongrass soup from Thai Paradise, a tiny little restaurant in Baldwin Village. It’s pretty authentic, spicy, and the shrimp are so fat and tasty. I love the complex flavours of the soup; lemongrass has got to be one of the most delicious seasonings ever. My mouth is now watering.


Lisa: I don’t care what anybody says! My mom makes the best soup in the whole entire world (ahem… Lara and Christina…). My fave is mushroom. Made with cream, loads of mushrooms, a little flour, some butter, and salt and white pepper to taste. Simple. Savoury. Super fattening. It’s so good. I would tell you all to try some, but she lives in North Bay. 
 

Where do you get your favourite soup? We want to know!

Rave: No Strings Attached

By now, our regular readers know that we LOVE movies on the fourth floor. Last week, we saw an advance screening of No Strings Attached (Paramount Pictures), directed by Ivan Reitman.      
Considering it’s a rom-com that premiered just before Valentine’s Day, this is sure to be a popular date movie, so we sent Lisa and her boyfriend, Jesse, to check it out – and get a girl’s and a guy’s opinion on the film.
#NoStringsAttached
Emma (Natalie Portman) and Adam (Ashton Kutcher) have known each other for years, though they’ve never dated. One morning, after an unexpected sleepover at Emma’s house, a hung-over Adam wakes up on Emma’s couch having no idea where he is. He’s never met Emma’s roommates (who wake to find him on their sofa) and doesn’t even realize he’s at her home until she comes to find him in the living room. After everything is sorted out, they hang out (sans roommates) in her bedroom, and end up having sex.

To protect their friendship, they make a pact to keep their relationship strictly “no strings attached” – no jealousy, no expectations, no fighting, no flowers, no baby voices. It means they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, in whatever public space they want, as long as they don’t fall in love. The question becomes – who’s going to fall first? And can their friendship survive?



We think it’s such a relatable story for a lot of men and women. Jesse, the ultimate “guy’s guy”, loved the inappropriate guy jokes between Adam and his friends. Emma is a relationship-phobic workaholic and likes to keep her guard up. Like we said, relatable.

What surprised us most about this flick was how funny it is. It’s definitely not a typical romantic comedy, when the laughs are slightly forced, because you feel like you should laugh. Our entire theatre was actually LOL-ing. 
Portman is clever and witty, while Kutcher plays a character far more endearing than the “Kelso” and “Punk’d” personas we’re used to seeing. 
 
Lisa:  My main priority is whether or not a movie is entertaining. I want to escape reality and kick back with some popcorn. No Strings Attached was perfect for this. It had just the right amount of love, jokes, sex, embarrassing moments and likable characters – the best recipe for a romantic comedy. 

Portman’s and Kutcher’s Emma and Adam made an adorable couple, while Mindy Kaling (The Office‘s Kelly Kapoor) tossed out some good zingers as one of Emma’s roommates. Lake Bell
played a great supporting role as the comical Lucy, a work colleague of Adam.
Even though I went with Jesse, I would definitely come back with my best girlfriends for another giggle-fest.

Jesse and Lisa. 

Jesse:  Ashton Kutcher always kills me, but Adam’s father, played by Kevin Kline, was my favourite. His role was just hilariously ignorant. A one-time TV star, he uses his former status to date women 30 years his junior, smokes pot and seems almost oblivious to his rude, but funny, behaviour. 

Guys – if you owe your girl a chick flick date, this is the time to go. You’ll both like it.


Images courtesy of Paramount Pictures*. Photo credit: Dale Robinette.
*With the exception of the last image.

A visit from… Dr. Sandy Skotnicki

Nothing feels better in the dead of winter than a little cosmetic pick-me-up. Whether it’s a bright new red lipstick, quick spray tan or fresh head of highlights, treating yourself is a surefire way to up the cheer levels.

But sometimes we need a little more than a new tube of gloss. Lucky for us, Dr. Sandy Skotnicki at Bay Dermatology Centre, visited the fourth floor and offered us a few long-term ways to freshen up winter-weary skin. Here are a few of her top tips to help you look and feel great.

Dr. Sandy Skotnicki. Photo by George Pimentel.
Twitter: @BayDermCentre

Hollywood Glow
Get your glow back with the amazing Intraceutical Oxygen Facial.

Image courtesy of Intraceuticals.
This facial is used by celebrities, high-profile spas and dermatologists worldwide. The treatment is gentle and non-invasive, using hyperbaric oxygen to hydrate (a must-have for Canadian winters) and infuse skin with vitamins A, C, E, and green tea extracts. All of these elements help fight free radical and environmental damage. The procedure also helps stimulate collagen and elastin production, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The best part is that results are pretty instantaneous and last for up to three weeks!
Before and after. Image courtesy of Intraceuticals.

Freshly scrubbed
Formulab is a brand new skin care line – cleanser, toner and acne treatment. The simple skincare regimen is made with the best ingredients to achieve specific results. While “natural” and “organic” are always seen as preferable, many people don’t realize that even natural ingredients like tea tree oil or lavender can cause allergic reactions. That said, the line does steer clear of unnecessary synthetic ingredients (like fragrance or dyes).



The line contains benzyol peroxide, still proven to be one of the best ways to treat acne. One of the best features of the line is that every ingredient included is listed, with an explanation as to why it’s there. Neat.

Email lisa@rockitpromo.com for where to buy or for more info. 

Go big or go home
If you want to look more trim, but hate the thought of a gym routine, we have something a little more instant and a little less work-intensive. We all know you can’t spot train pesky areas that just can’t seem to get as tight and toned as you’d like.

To solve this common problem, Dr. Skotnicki offers UltraShape Contour Version 3 fat reduction and body contouring. This very gentle, pain-free treatment uses ultrasonic waves to break down fat cells, permanently. You can target your abdomen, or inner and outer thighs with the 60 to 90 minute procedure, and you don’t even need anesthesia. There is also no recovery period, so you can strut out of the office. After three treatments, you can see an average of four to ten centimeters. Seriously!  

Dr. Skotnicki’s Bay Dermatology Centre has become a mecca for beauty junkies. Book one of these winter pick-me-ups, and start your year looking and feeling better than ever.