Rave: Childhood summer vacations

There’s nothing quite like summer to make us nostalgic about our childhood. Two months of blissful, school-free days filled with swimming, ice cream and road trips. The heat must be getting to us On The Fourth Floor, because the other day we started reminiscing about our favourite memories of past summer vacations.


My grandparents used to live on a lake near Parry Sound – it’s my favourite place in the world. We’d be outside all day and in my case, most of the time was spent in the water. At night we’d hang around the fire and play horseshoes. I have such great memories of being up there. Lots of laughter, jokes and love.




Image Source
Just picture a mini-Lisa jumping off that dock.


Lara:
I spent every summer from ages nine to 19 at Camp Winnebagoe. Life was good. I made lifelong friends, spent every waking moment outside and learned so much.


I love Murphy’s Ice Cream Parlour in Streetsville. My grandpa used to take me when I was about five, and it was always the happening spot in the summer. All the cute soccer playing boys would hang out there, which was nice little eye candy to go along with the ice cream. I still get a kiddy scoop of Caribou Tracks when I go there now.
Image Source.
My family always takes an annual summer trip to Stowe, Vermont. It’s the annual Stark Stowe reunion. We make T-shirts every year. We usually stay at the Golden Eagle resort and hit the bike path, alpine slidesBen and Jerry’s factory, and a dinner at The Whip. These trips have become especially fun and meaningful since both my brother and I have had kids.

Michelle:
I loved going to the Toronto Zoo. I always had a fascination with watching animals and thought of it as such an adventure. I still dream of going to African Lion Safari – maybe this is the summer!


Image Source.
The mighty polar bears at the Toronto Zoo.
Christina

I grew up spending summers in Bass River, Nova Scotia. As a city girl, I adapted quickly to country living (with a ton of allergy pills and nose spray) and soon learned to milk a cow, drive a tractor and race around on a four wheeler. My favourite memory is when we spent two weeks camping across Newfoundland with our best family friends. I think it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. 
I loved the cottage that my family used to rent just north of Sudbury. My brother, sister and I would basically be left on our own for the entire time, and we loved it. We’d swim, fish, explore in the woods, read books (well, only I would do that), stay up late and roast marshmallows over campfires at night. I still love going to cottages, and try to get to a friend’s every chance I get. To me, it’s the essence of summer in Canada.

Debra:
I also spent my summers up at camp in Perth, Ontario. It is where I found my independence, hit puberty and fell in love. I also learned how to build a fire, camp out with just a tarp and play capture the flag. I love the memories that I have and wouldn’t trade those summers for anything.

What is your favourite summer memory? Leave a comment, or tweet us @rockitpromo.


Meet Our Team: the baby edition *with a prize!*

You’ve met our whole team over the past few months and now we have a challenge for you. We’ve dug through the photo archives (back when photos were printed on paper, not stored on computers), and pulled out shots of ourselves when we were in diapers.


Your challenge: Guess which chubby face belongs to which gal on the fourth floor. You’ll win tickets for two to an upcoming Canadian Stage production.


How to enter: Email your guess with the whole team matched up to the right baby to
carly.intern [at] rockitpromo [dot] com.


This first correct guess wins. Go!

 Our team: Carly, Rachelle, Christina, MichelleDebraLisaAlana, Lara and Abby







It’s Valentine’s Day – got plans?

Whether you’re single, in a relationship, or “it’s complicated”, the pressure’s on to do something today. Fear not – if you haven’t yet figured out your game plan, we have some non-cheesy ideas to help you out.
Flying solo?
The great thing about being single for V-Day is that you don’t have to consider anyone else when making plans. Pretty sweet.

If staying in, grab some wine, takeout and a classic romance like The Way We Were or Breakfast at Tiffany’s. These flicks focus on good storytelling and great acting, so you won’t roll your eyes at the love stories.  


Lisa: My best Valentine’s Day ever was at my friend Fran’s house. We were both single, so she invited me over, cooked her famous KD, with dill pickle-flavoured Crispers and tortilla chips with spinach dip. We dimmed the lights, lit some candles, and laughed more than I ever have before on Valentine’s Day.

Take the pressure off to do something romantic and hang out with friends. The Drake Hotel’s 86’D Monday, Valentine’s Edition, is a great night out. Bartenders will compete for the honour of best Pink Squirrel. What’s a Pink Squirrel, you ask? Find out tonight at 7 p.m. There’s also great live music from Boot Knives to go along with your cocktails. 
 This is not the Pink Squirrel that will be at The Drake.

Michelle: Being single on Valentine’s Day can be super fun. I’ll have dinner with my other single friends at Woodlot and dance up a storm at The Modern Love Affair party at Footwork. Valentine’s Day doesn’t just have to be about romantic love.
A deux
Of course, being in a relationship for Valentine’s Day is great. On what other day of the year is it acceptable to publicly proclaim your affections in the most over-the-top way you can think of?
Instead of typical roses and chocolates, why not show your love by making something yourself? The effort put in will be majorly appreciated. We love Bakerella’s massive list of sweet treat suggestions. Like her 14-layer cake. 

Bakerella’s mega-impressive 14-layer cake
Rachelle: Valentine’s Day will always hold a special place in my heart. I got engaged on V-Day in Quebec City during Winter Carnival. My husband Ariel proposed in front of 80,000 onlookers at the annual Winter Carnival parade. We became local celebs, made it into two newspapers and were the photo of the day on Le Soleil’s website.
Just because you’re taken doesn’t mean you have to have a quiet, candlelit dinner. Go for a skate on an outdoor rink with some hot chocolate, then play a board game at Snakes and Lattes. Some friendly competition, a wobbly pop and a few good laughs is a lovely way to spend an evening. 
 Play nice! Image source.
Christina: Favourite spot? My house! I hate going out to restos because more tables are crammed into the same space. This year, the fiancé and I are grabbing some lobsters, a bottle of wine, and watching America’s Funniest Home Videos. Wow… I just realized how domestic that sounded. 

Another fun idea is a staycation. Find a deal on Hotwire.com, or get a package from a hotel like The Drake or the Yorkville InterContinental. It’s a getaway without the hassle of travel, and you won’t even have to make the bed in the morning.

Debra: For one of my fave Valentine’s Days, Matt had our friend Chef Ezra Title drop off a delicious meal at our house. Matt’s a fantastic cook, but this was nice as he didn’t have to do anything but follow some simple instructions, and we had a brilliant meal at home with nowhere to go after but our living room to listen to music and drink wine.
 

 Happy Valentine’s Day!

What’s In Your… Carry On?

We all know by now: whether it’s a short flight or you’re in for the long haul, keep your prods to a minimum. And by minimum, we only mean 30 mL or less. In terms of how many items you want to bring on though, well, that’s still left up to you and the size of your travel bag, luckily. We asked our office what their carry-on staples are, and this is what we’re rocking:



Michelle: I typically bring a mix of magazines in all sorts of genres so I don’t get bored. My selection would look something like: Toronto Life, Flare, Nylon, Adbusters and one tabloid like Us Weekly.


I would DIE without music, so always have to have my iPod. It helps me tune out the sound of other people snoring, kids crying, someone coughing, etc. And I have a huge fear of my luggage getting lost, so I always bring one outfit and pair of shoes in my carry on, just in case.
Lara: As soon as I clear customs, my traditions kick in. First stop: Starbucks for a Frappucino. 

Second stop: mindless magazines and a bottle of water. These are added into my overstuffed carry-on, which also always has a few other things, like ear phones. 

I barrel through new releases on flights. I never travel with out my various chargers – Blackberry, iPod and camera. If there’s one place where I find the leggings trend appropriate, it’s on a plane. Enter comfort zone as soon as the bathroom light comes on after take-off.


Rachelle: My top 3 must-have carry-on items: Rosebud Salve lip balm: It can be used on basically anything dry (lips, face, hands). Baby wipes, which are great for the babe, and to clean my hands if the bathrooms are not vacant. Otrivin nasal mist: I know, kinda gross, but my sinuses kill me on the plane.
Carly: Apparently, there is something to be said about packing light. Don’t ask me about it; I have never done it. When choosing between my Michael Kors wedges and Pedro Garcia booties, I bring them both.

Then I throw in my Stuart Weitzman’s for good measure. So what’s in my carry on bag? All the shoes I can’t fit into my suitcase.

Christina: I’m one of those weird people who loves to fly (comparable to the weird people that enjoy going to the dentist). This is because I usually take the opportunity to catch up on sleep. After boarding, I enjoy a glass of Merlot and then catch up on my zzz’s. 

My carry on includes items that make my snooze a little more comfortable:

A good book. I read a little until the Merlot kicks in and I get to snooze. Gum for when I wake up from my snooze. Also, great to chomp on while descending. I pack Pur Gum in spearmint. It’s aspartame-free, and one of my New Year’s resolutions is to cut this chemical out of my diet.
 

Sunglasses. The second I get off the plane, I slide on my sunny gees to cover my sleepy eyes.

Debra: I never go on a plane without regular flavoured Bubbalicious (for take-offs and landing), a spray toner that I transfer into a small spritz bottle (I like Dermalogica), and Rosebud Salve lip balm. I also always have a pashmina in case I get cold.

Lisa: A really warm sweater! Airplane blankets are never warm enough and I always get chilly on planes. I would also bring a full-sized pillow if it would fit. I like to be comfy.

Alana: First and foremost, a good book. I love reading at night, but find that I’m out like a light after three pages, so taking a good book with me on vacation is always a must. Bonus: it also gives me a chance to actually finish the book in a normal amount of time. 
Second, snacks. If I’m travelling out of the country, I’ll always bring something small but filling, like granola bars, just in case of delays or as a potential life-saver from unappetizing foods (as tempting as those chicken feet look, I think I’ll pass). 

Other essentials include a travel toothbrush and face wipes and anything else that will make my trip run smoothly!

Abby: Number one carry-on must-have is a good book or two, depending on how long the flight is. I wear my glasses and bring contacts to change into before I land (they get way too dry on the plane). And toiletries: a toothbrush, my makeup bag to look a little less rumpled (Benefit’s benetint is the single best way to do this) and a hairbrush. 



I love Nina Garcia’s words about airplane travel – something along the lines of “flights are not an excuse to wear yoga pants. Look presentable, wrinkle-free and comfortable, not like you’re going to the gym”. I try to live by this (sorry Lara!).

Rant AND Rave: Snowboarding vs. Skiing

Some of us want to make the best of winter. We love the waft of beaver tails lingering in the air. The crisp air and cozy nights in blankets with tea. We also love being active. Some of us on the fourth floor are skiers and some are snowboarders. Here are our thoughts on which ride trumps the other.


Ross Rebagliati wannabe’s

 

Lara: As a young girl I learned how to ski on the bunny hill at Earl Bales and moved up to Lakeridge, but my heart was never in it. When snowboarding became the new “it” sport, I jumped on the bandwagon. My friend Hayley oozed the cool snowboarder vibe, was an instant pro, quickly became a teacher, and gave me lessons on her front lawn “slope”. I was in love and seriously dove in a few years ago. I crave road trips to bigger mountains, am constantly looking for new gear, and love the culture – a.k.a. poutine and nachos for lunch and talking about every ride, how good or bad or fast it went. Gnarly dude.

 

Christina: I’ve been a boarder since ’96, when an embarrassing ski accident (involving moguls and a younger child) caused me to see the light. I have never looked back. I think the ultimate reason boarding is better is the outcome after falling. When you bite it on skis, it’s downright embarrassing. As a skier, you yard sale on the hill, poles tossed in every direction, one ski sliding down the hill and with the other 20 yards up. You have to climb back up the hill (awkwardly, because walking in ski boots is the pits and your onesy ski suit is inevitably too tight) and collect all your gear piece by piece. Thankfully, as a boarder my equipment never strays. When I fall, my board is attached by a leash. I can sit down on the hill, strap back in and still look good doing it.

Abby: Skiing! Even though I am into snowboarding, I’ve only done it once. It was a blast, but hard on my wrists from a million falls, and my knee was aching by the end of the day, unaccustomed to being flexed for hours at a time. 
Skiing feels smoother and freer. I used to figure skate competitively, so skiing came easily. I love to push myself and go down moguls, triple black diamond hills and occasionally venture into the half-pipe. There’s no way I’d get that thrill factor with snowboarding – I’d have to put in years just to avoid giving myself a concussion.
 
It’s also easier to get around on flat ground (instead of doing that awkward pigeon-toed snowboard walk).

Rachelle: I love alpine skiing. I’m originally from Montreal and the skiing in Quebec is great. I love the speed, the amazing workout and and the cute après ski outfits. My husband and I love the good food you can always find in ski towns.

The former skier/snowboarder:  


Matt: The year was 1998. I was a very good skier, had a pair of K2’s and all. I made the horrible mistake of trying to impress some ladies, so I tackled a triple black diamond hill. My ski fell off on a hairpin turn, I crashed through the orange barrier fence, launched over a cliff and had my fall broken by a lone tree. Ski patrol tied me to a spinal board on a sled and took me down the hill to emergency. Along the way I saw the girls. Needless to say, they were not impressed. I was on crutches for two months. Sadly, I haven’t skied or snowboarded since, but put me down for drinks by a chalet fireplace.




What about you – skis or snowboard? Tweet us @rockitpromo.

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.

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!