Best On The Fourth Floor posts from 2011

For our last post of the year, we’ve put together a round-up of some of our favourite and most-read posts from the last 12 months. We have had almost 175,000 page views since we started in the summer of 2010 thanks to you. Fist pump. xo

Our first Media, Darling of 2011, Sasha Tong, was fun to interview, and her post full of good advice and insider secrets is our most popular to date. 

The snowboarding vs. skiing debate raged in our office in February, when we went head to head with each other to see which snow sport reigned supreme. The verdict? Find out here.

Back in March, we went to visit a brand new little resto that opened just around the corner from us called 416 Snack Bar. We chatted with owners Dave and Adrian, and have literally been back almost weekly to sample their tasty wines and homemade snacks. It really is our Cheers.

We eloquently expressed our rage regarding biking in the city in April, since we’d just taken our trusty steeds out of winter storage and were still getting used to the new “war on bikes” era ushered in by Mayor Ford. We hate to say it, but things didn’t really change for the better when it comes to biking downtown. Maybe in 2012?
We were excited when PR maven Kelly Cutrone stopped by the fourth floor in May, to give us some advice (and record a funny video with our own Matt Austin, a former Power Ranger). 
Delicious cooking made an appearance on the fourth floor in June, with a delicious fiddlehead and ramps recipe, complete with quinoa. Yum.

Our appreciation for art increased with our trip and subsequent post about the Abstract Expressionism exhibit at the AGO, featuring Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and others. 

Lazy summer days gave us plenty of time to ponder email etiquette, so we put those thoughts on screen and generated a strong response. People have opinions about email etiquette.

We checked out the brand-new Black Hoof cocktail bar. Needless to say, we were impressed with the clever and careful concoctions. 

TIFF was busy and exciting, and we celebrated our favourite moments and memories from a festival that were full of encounters with talent, great music and fun after-parties (in between all the work!).

Immediately after TIFF, we dove into fashion with LG Fashion Week Beauty by L’Oreal Paris. Guests really brought their style, so we snapped shots of our fave looks. 

We got our craft on at Miracle Thieves and created some clever and sassy pumpkins. 

Finally, we closed out 2011 strong with our very successful step-by-step ballerina bun post. If you see these pretty hairstyles around the city, and want to DIY, read this

Thanks again for reading, commenting, tweeting and subscribing. It means a lot. We have some fun things planned for 2012, so keep on coming to visit us on the fourth floor. Happy and safe new year to you all. xo

 

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Media, Darling: My first record, part 2

We’re continuing our special holiday Media, Darling post about first records. Hope everyone is enjoying their time off!  
Wendy Kam Marcy: My first album was New Kids On The Block. I had a mad tween crush on Jordan Knight and used to fall asleep with him singing to me – I hid my Walkman under the covers and had a picture of him under my pillow. Years later, I met him and he signed my Hangin’ Tough tape. It was pretty amazing to see this guy that I’ve watched so many times on music videos and in concert actually standing before me. I even hugged him.
Benjamin Leszcz: My first CD was in fact two CDs: Bon Jovi’s Keep the Faith – and the Keep the Faith Mega Edition Bonus CD. My Dance Mix ’92 tape got tossed into the back of the closet – and I became a man.
Jeni Besworth: The first cassette I bought (that got played until you could no longer read the writing on it) was Blue Rodeo Outskirts. I had always listened to pop music/top 40 and one day my brother came into my room, stopped my ghetto blaster, which was blaring Wham! and scolded me on my taste in music. He lectured that I needed to branch out – “listen to CFNY!” – and expand my musical horizons. 
 
So, the next day (without him knowing of course), I switched stations and caught the last minute of Try. I had never heard anything like it. It blew my mind. I bought the tape that afternoon after school. To this day, they remain one of my all-time favourite bands. 
Deirdre Kelly: My first album was The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour. I must have been 11, and was so inspired that soon after, I did my Grade 5 public speaking assignment on The Beatles (I was a school finalist). I bought it for the same reason I love it: I Am The Walrus. I heard that Lennon/McCartney song for the first time on a transistor radio I had hidden under my pillow at night. The Beatles, alas for me, had broken up, and CHUM was playing a documentary on the most famous band in pop music. I Am the Walrus came on at one point, and I was mesmerized: the serpentine melody, John Lennon’s nasal, aggressive voice, the surreal nonsense lyrics, as deliciously subversive as anything out of Lewis Carroll. 

I had never heard anything like it. It was like opium to my ears. I don’t think the song was released as a single, which is why I went to Kresge’s in Thorncliffe Park, where I grew up, to buy with my own money the Magical Mystery Tour album. I Am the Walrus is just one of several outstanding sonic creations on it, the others being Strawberry Fields, Fool on the Hill, Penny Lane and George Harrison’s psychedelic-evocative, Blue Jay Way

I am a huge Beatles fan still today. I met Ringo last year, and, in September, I met Paul McCartney at the world premiere of his Ocean’s Kingdom ballet in New York; he kissed me twice, and held my hand while we chatted. I was dumbstruck. But I did manage to find my voice to thank him for a lifetime of incredible music. 

Sarah Kelsey: Outside of Strawberry Shortcake on vinyl (seriously, it was her telling stories), the first album I remember loving was a mixed tape my mom and dad made. It was full of classic rock and oldies tunes. I played it over and over and over again on my toteable, plastic Fisher-Price cassette player. I practically brought it everywhere with me. It’s because of this tape I developed my love of The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Elvis, Led Zeppelin, Creedance Clearwater Revival and The Band. Keep in mind I was probably three or four years old when I became obsessed with these tunes. My love of classic rock endures to this day.
 
Gabrielle Johnson: I feel like I’m really dating myself here by revealing that my first album was Miss Piggy’s Aerobique Exercise Workout Album, which was a parody of the Jane Fonda Workout. On vinyl.  My favourite song was Snackcercise – if memory serves, Miss Piggy instructed listeners to “reach for the bonbon, eat the bonbon, reach for the bonbon, eat the bonbon.” That is still my idea of an awesome workout.  
Karon Liu: If we’re not including cassettes, my first CD was Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill. Ironic was being played every hour on the radio and MuchMusic and it was one hell of a catchy tune. I was 10 when the CD came out in 1995, so I had no idea what most of the lyrics meant until much later. Luckily my parents weren’t fluent in English, so they didn’t think twice when I sang “And are you thinking of me when you fuck her?” out loud in my room. Ever since the CD came out, I’ve always had it in my Discman, on the various mp3 players I owned over the years and currently on my iPhone. It’s the album I listened to the most, especially during the mandatory emo phase everyone had in high school. My second CD was — you guessed it — the soundtrack to Space Jam
Lisa Ng: My first CD that I ever bought (when it was cool to make the switch from cassette tapes to CD) was The Cranberries’ No Need to Argue in 1994. It was the perfect soundtrack to my angsty teen years and The Cranberries were the shit back then! I paid $13.99 for it at Future Shop and listened to it over and over again.
Chantel Simmons: For Christmas of 1985, my parents gave me a ghetto blaster. Yes, that’s probably an incorrect term now, but that’s what we called it back then. Move over, shared family room record player. With two cassette decks, I was in business. I could now make my own mixed tapes, so my first cassette was a huge deal: Starship Knee Deep in the Hoopla. No clue what my fascination was with that band, but I was obsessed with the songs We Built This City and Sara. That is, until a few months later when I got NKOTB fever.
Thanks to our Media, Darlings for sharing their fun memories of their fave cassettes, albums and CDs. What were yours? Tweet us @rockitpromo or leave a comment!

My Hood: Allison

Our latest My ‘Hood: Allison talks about living in Condo Land AKA Lower Spadina.

The kitten and my view.
Moving into a condo at Spadina and Bremner was meant to be temporary; a short-term solution while I looked for a house in a “cooler” neighbourhood. Cut to two-and-a-half years later and I’m still loving living in the sky. While the City Place mecca might one day fall into ruin, as recently suggested by The Grid, it’s pretty shiny and new right now.
Best running motivation there is. 
Photo via Flickr.
On a typical weekend morning I’ll elevator down to the gym, hit the pool and finish up in the steam room. If it’s a particularly nice day, I’ll jog down along Lakeshore via the Terry Fox Miracle Mile (designed by Douglas Coupland). After that, it’s right to Thor for quick coffee or Le Gourmand for a leisurely breakfast over a newspaper.
Thor Espresso Bar
Image via Torontour.
If I feel like shopping, I’ll walk west on Queen or up to Kensington Market if I need to grab groceries (there’s a Sobey’s in my building but nothing beats Essence of Life). For retail therapy closer to home, there’s Riant, a cool boutique new to the neighborhood that carries a ton of great labels including Mackage and Rebecca Minkoff, and the Drake General Store on Bathurst (which happens to be my favourite of all three shops).
Coziest Drake General Store
Image via SheDoesTheCity
In the summer I’ll bike down to The Power Plant to check out the latest exhibit, or head over to the Harbourfront Centre for a free show or movie. I’m also right next to the Sky Dome Roger’s Centre, so I’ve gotten to know the nosebleed section quite well. In the winter I tend to hibernate but if I do go out, it’s to grab dinner at KitKat (my local gem) or a movie at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. The Island is also cool to visit in the winter; every Sunday, the residents play shinny on the ice against the backdrop of Toronto – so neat to watch.
Quite the rink
Image via SpacingToronto
So that’s my ‘hood. Future ghetto or not, I love my little sky pod.

Rants and Raves: Chivalry

Chivalry. Yes, yes, we know – we women got the vote, feminism is a force to be reckoned with, and times have changed. And while we fully value and appreciate what our leading ladies accomplished for us in terms of women’s rights – we wouldn’t trade them for anything – we still have to wonder why chivalry seems to have died off.

Lines are often blurred in terms of roles these days. Women are the breadwinners, men are stay-at-home dads. Men are comfortable, and enjoy, being in the kitchen, while women play poker and enjoy a good Scotch. Men like to shop. Women like to golf. Men who aren’t afraid to cry, hug lots and express their feelings are awesome (whatever, Blachford). Men are softer, women are tougher. But still, does chivalry have to be dead?

Webster’s defines “chivalrous” as this:

a: marked by honour, generosity and courtesy; 
b: marked by gracious courtesy and high-minded consideration especially to women.

Maybe…
Some of you feel chivalry was a trade-off for women’s liberation.
Society has become too self-centred.
It has something to do with the vibrant mix of cultures peacefully living side by side and adapting to and exchanging customs. Diversity.
Technology has caused the opportunities for being chivalrous to dwindle.
Whatever the reason, we challenge you to bring it back for 2012. We’re not asking for grand gestures. We’re talking about small tokens of appreciation – when it comes down to it, just good old thoughtfulness. Is that an easier word to digest?

Call us old fashioned, but these are musts in our book. You’re a gay man with your bestie girl? We say rules still apply.

Hold open a door and let a lady walk through first (also applies to elevators). Offer her your suit jacket to drape on her shoulders if she is freezing. Wait for her to get inside safely if you’re dropping her off at her door.

If you see a woman struggling to open a door because her hands are full of grocery bags, hold the door open for her. Riding public transit and a young woman is attempting to get her baby’s stroller on the bus? Help her out. See an elderly person who needs a seat? GET UP and offer it to them. See a mom (or dad) with a car full of kids vying for the same parking spot as you and you’re on your own? Please, let them have it. They’ve got their hands full already. And yes, in this age of equality, these rules can apply to women, too. See a sister that needs a hand? Lend one. We preach it, we should teach it.
In short, chivalry is a choice. The choice to do the right thing, for the right reason, at the right time. 
Comment or tweet us @rockitpromo.

Happy Boxing Day!

We hope you’re full and happy from the weekend festivities, whether they involve a Christmas tree or a menorah. If you need to burn off some extra calories, here’s some mad-hot shopping you can do. Fighting the crowds will take some energy, so make sure to have that extra helping of mashed potatoes.

Fred Perry and Oliver Spencer stores are offering 50 to 70 per cent off all of their stock. ‘Tis the time to pick up some beautifully tailored pieces for ladies and gents. From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 962 and 964 Queen St. W.  

Visit the Oliver Spencer store for great deals.

Be sure to use ShopCatch while you’re out today. It’s the easiest app to tell you where the best deals are, wherever you are. There are mall maps, store directories and keyword/category searches. Free to download. 

Holt Renfrew is notoriously secretive about their sales; retail sales staff often don’t know about the sales until the day-of. So while we can’t share the exact Boxing Day sales details, we can tell you the Bloor Street outpost will be open as of 7 a.m. All you earlybird shoppers can get there early and be done shopping in time for brunch. 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 50 Bloor St. W.

Holts’ festive holiday window.


Each year, our favourite Ossington boutique, Jonathan + Olivia, has an incredible Boxing Day sale. This year they kicked off their sale early – from December 22 onwards, they’ll be offering up to 70 per cent off select merchandise. This includes markdowns on already reduced items! From 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 49 Ossington Ave.

Still a relative newcomer to the Queen West block, Bicyclette Boutique will be closed on Boxing Day but will hold a Boxing Week sale beginning on Monday, December 27. Almost everything in the store will be 30 to 70 per cent off retail. 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 880 Queen St. W. 

If you’re not one to battle the crowds on Boxing Day, then head to the Drake Hotel for the first night of the annual What’s In The Box Music Festival. For a measly $5, you can catch Buck 65 and Grandtheft tearing it up in the Underground. This might be the best possible way to burn off those holiday calories.
Photo credit: David Walman

We’re Not Just Pretty: Deb McCain

Deb has over 15 years of experience in public relations and communications.  After completing her Master’s degree at the London School of Economics, she worked as a communications advisor to cabinet ministers in the Ontario Government before rounding out her communications experience across a number of sectors with Hill & Knowlton and GCI Group in Toronto and Hill & Knowlton, New York. Deb worked in-house for a media agency during the dotcom boom, and ultimately returned to Toronto to set up her own shop, launching Deb McCain Communications in 2004.


Since starting DMC, Deb has worked with many HGTV personalities from Sarah Richardson and Tommy Smythe to Peter Fallico, Suzanne Dimma and the original Designer Guys, Steven & Chris.  She was involved with the creation of
Inside Entertainment magazine and FQ Magazine (with editor Jeanne Beker) and has worked extensively with Canadian fashion brands Ron White, Smythe jackets and Dealuxe. Deb has substantial experience in Canadian television across a range of production companies and networks including CBC, CTV, W Network, HGTV, Slice, Discovery and TVO.

DMC works with a number of charitable initiatives throughout the year including CAMH (Unmasked Fundraiser 2008-2011), The Ron White Foundation (White Knight Galas 2009-2011), The Writer’s Trust (Gala Dinner 2010), and Casey House (Snowball 2012). Outside of the office, Deb stays busy on the home front with a husband and two young girls.


How long have you been in your current position?
10 years.

How does your company leverage PR (i.e. to generate press, to build reputation, to manage crisis communications, etc)?
We use media to extend our client’s brands. We look for opportunities to layer stories and create multiple points of contact. We know the right people to get it done.

What qualities are most important to you when hiring a PR team member (PR degree, internships, etc.)?
Strong knowledge in the sector and loads of initiative.

Who gave you your first big career break?
Mike Coates, CEO of Hill & Knowlton Canada. He let me talk him into transferring me to the New York office. The rest is history. 

What’s your biggest piece of advice for PR pros, both junior and senior?
Know your journalists and what they’re writing about. Read as much as you can and stay current. Some of the best pitches have a hook that ties in with this week’s news.

What do you love most about your job?
The thrill of the kill.  There’s nothing like opening  three newspapers on a Saturday morning and seeing our stuff in ALL of them.

If you weren’t doing PR, what would you do?
I’m a media junkie so I don’t know. Maybe work in TV? Or magazines? I should definitely NOT own a bar.

A little more from the fourth floor:

Website:
TorontoLife.com, Twitter, Dealuxe.ca, LaineyGossip.

Designer:
Smythe – I’m biased, but I’ve loved their stuff since day one and probably have one of the largest existing collections outside of the designers themselves (and Sarah Richardson).

Store:
Again, biased…Ron White Shoes. But, c’mon, where else can you go and get a foot massage and luxury water (chilled or room temp) and get to try on things for hours??

Book:  
Naked by David Sedaris and Catcher in the Rye both have a perm spot on my nightstand. Guiltily half-read at the moment is My Horizontal Life by Chelsea Handler.

Snack:
Rainforest crisps with any and all cheeses.

Sexy: 
Barry White.

Inspiration:
My daughters Davis and Daphne.

Drink:
Plenty of white wine.

Motto in two words:
Under promise/over deliver (take your pick but they are best together).

Idea of perfect happiness:
The sweetspot of the weekend – Friday night 7 to 11 p.m.

Indulgence: 
Poutine.

Celebrity crush:
Owen Wilson, hands down.

Favourite tweeter to follow: 
@j_knoxy, @debgee, @MissMarlowG, @shinangovani.

Media, Darling: My first record – part 1

Last year for the holidays, we asked some of our past Media, Darlings to share their favourite holiday traditions (check out part one here and part two here). This year, we decided to mix up it a little, and got them to spill about their very first album/record/tape/CD. The results were even better than we were hoping for. Without further ado, here goes the first round: 

Laura Serra: Culture Club’s Colour by Numbers. I used to turn our family room into a dance studio, jump off the sofas and boogie the night away.
Doug Wallace: Throughout the whole of the 1960s, I was obsessed with The Beatles. She Loves You came out when I was two years old, and the words were dead easy to remember! Aside from the obvious bubble gum compilations (so cheap and pressed for peanuts in Mississauga) that my teenaged siblings brought into the house every weekend, I spent my “drugstore” money on Beatles albums, until I had most of them — and then they broke up. And now, as they slowly die off (and their hair is brown still!), I have my eye on the complete iTunes set. On my list.
Flannery Dean: I have an older sister and so much of my music (like my clothing) was hand-me-down and consisted of mixed tapes (cassettes!) that she and her friends made. But my first big-girl purchase was a bargain-bin CD of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits when I was 12 or 13. I bought it because I had a crush on a boy at school who was a self-styled troubadour in the vein of Bob D (he was adorable and pretentious — adorably pretentious). The crush on the boy faded. My affection (One Too Many Mornings) for Bob Dylan endured. 
Athena TsavlirisGosh, I think it would have to have been a Madonna album. I totally remember wearing white fishnet gloves and belting out Papa Don’t Preach into my curling iron. 





Maryam Siddiqi: I have a horrible memory and can’t remember the first album I bought (though I have faint visions of Corey Hart’s Christmas EP — on red vinyl!), but do know that the first poster I ever had on my bedroom wall was of Wham! It was the cover of their Make it Big album. Many a hairbrush was used as a microphone for my renditions of Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, and I had a bit of a crush on Andrew Ridgeley. Fun fact: I’ve never really cared for Careless Whisper.

 



Sasha Tong:  The first CD that I bought with my own money was Blind Melon, you know, the one with that cute bee-girl on the cover. Need I say more than No Rain? Come on, that song is a pretty awesome jam and to this day it’s still one of my go-to Karaoke songs. You should also know that I went to see them open for Lenny Kravitz in Vancouver when Shannon Hoon whipped out his BLEEP and peed on a person in the front row. I thought it was really cool back then and I actually still do….


Randi Bergman: The first tape I remember having was a single of TLC’s Creep, which incidentally was purchased for me by my grandmother. I can’t imagine that she would have bought it for me had she known the lyrical content, but then again… I had no idea what it meant either.


Mackay Taggart: My first album, I’m hesitant to admit, was Boyz II Men’s sophomore CD II.  I was 11 and (at the time) far from soulful, romantic or deep…though come to think of it perhaps the same can be said for Boys II Men. My one saving grave was that the CD was a gift, however enough digging would probably reveal a letter to Santa that requested the title along with the latest air powered NERF gun. Looking back on the lyrics of the album’s hit single I’ll Make Love To You, I question what a sixth grader could really glean from words like “Girl relax, let’s go slow, I ain’t got nowhere to go….Girl are you ready? It’s gonna be a long night”. Nonetheless I had my hands on a record spun nightly by Tarzan Dan on AM640, so I felt cool. All this said, acquiring that album back in Christmas of 1994 was probably the closest I’ve ever come to having “game”.


Bonnie Munday: I remember playing Supertramp’s Breakfast in America over and over again as a kid with my best friend Sandra in her basement. I loved the lyrics and that the band was British, but listening to it now, it’s pretty cheesy. 



Paul Boynett: My first album was Never Mind the Bollocks by the Sex Pistols. I bought it because my close friend brought over Rod Stewart’s Do Ya Think I’m Sexy and I needed to cleanse my ear palette as quickly as possible (do we even have ear palettes?). I had never even heard the band but their notoriety intrigued me so I bought it without hearing it. From the opening sound of boots marching in Holidays in the Sun to the very end, I love everything about the album – still.

Funny side story: I left the album at my British girlfriend’s house and her mom threw it out.  I thought it was because it was so loud and obnoxious, turns out it was because bollocks was a “bad” word over in the UK and she was offended by the reference. Who knew? I guess the album was an education as well.



Stay tuned for part two of our Media, Darling’s first albums next week. What was your first album? Leave a comment or tweet us @rockitpromo.