Fave 5: Not-so-typical Valentine’s Day events

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, for most of us it’s a love-hate relationship. Some of us love it, some of us hate it (and some of us land firmly in the middle). 

For the lovers, a typical V-Day usually entails going out for a romantic dinner and maybe a movie or cocktail after. For the haters out there, (single or coupled up) staying home and pretending you forgot that it’s February 14 isn’t necessary. Embrace your warm fuzzy self, and somebody you love, and check out some unconventional events happening around the city that even the biggest cynic is sure to enjoy.

SPiN Toronto – 461 King St. W.
Singles, couples and groups are invited to SPiN Toronto’s first ever Valentine’s Day party, where fake blood is welcome, gory costumes are encouraged and bloody drinks are being served. There is also a killer photo booth and a prize to be won for goriest costume. Ping pong is free after 9 p.m. Not into Valentine’s Day? Just think of it as a Halloween party in February.
Casa Loma, 1 Austin Terrace
From the looks of it, horror and romance seem to be going hand in hand this year. If it’s not cheesy, typical love day plans you’re after (we’re not that kinda girls), then head to Casa Loma where the Brant Theatre is presenting Dracula, A Love Story, a play by Sharyl Hudson. The play takes you from room to room throughout Toronto’s own Gothic mansion, as the actors bring the famous Bram Stoker novel to life. The show starts at 8:30 p.m. and tickets are $34. 
Supermarket – 268 Augusta Avenue
WORN FASHION JOURNAL is hosting a karaoke night starting at 9 p.m. at Supermarket in Kensington. Tickets are $7, and just $5 if you wear red. Who doesn’t love belting out love songs and a cheap cover?

Oz Studio – 134 Ossington Ave.
If live music is your thing, then Love Near Bellewoods is the place to be. Dave Monks of Tokyo Police Club, Chris White of Bellewoods and Luke Laldone from Born Ruffians are all part of the lineup that may just serenade the crowd with love songs. Rumour has it that there will also be a few surprise guests. And because Valentine’s Day isn’t complete without DIY crafts, there will be a card making station with paper bag mail boxes for the first 50 people to arrive. The party starts at 10 p.m. and tickets are $7. 

Whistler’s Grille and Cafe, 995 Broadview Avenue
If you’re in the east end, The Cabbagetown Theatre Company is putting on No Sweetheart Required, a cabaret evening of short and sassy comedies and musical performances. Tickets are $20 and group rates are also available for 10 or more people (you’ll also be entered into a prize draw). The event starts at 8 p.m. 


City Living: NYE parties

Two things happen once people stop trick-or-treating: Christmas lights go up and the question, “what are you doing for New Year’s?” is asked. Planning your night on December 31 can be stressful for some. That’s why we’re here to help shed some light on what is going on in and around the city on the last night of 2011. Here is where you’re most likely to find us at midnight on New Years Eve.

Dubbed “2012 DOOMSDAY”, the ping-pong club is letting folks hunker down for the catastrophic apocalypse. Their “survival guide” includes two bottles of sparkling wine, a shooter bottle of tequila, Jaegermeister or Jameson, a vat of punch, a case of beer and of course, a ping-pong table for the night. Gather 10 friends and shell out $1000/table (before Wednesday, December 21; after that it’s upped to $1250). Bookings can be made by emailing jessica@toronto.spingalactic.com.
Cottage Living
If you’re more of an escapee, we love getting a group of friends or family together and heading for the hills – you know, those big Ontario ones…

Prices can be steep at this time of the year, but a fire, board games and snow angels make it worth it. An awesome alternative to renting a hotel room is renting a chalet with a big group. Blue Mountain is a favourite of ours, because it also gives the option of hanging out in the village, a cozy area in the middle of the town, full of pubs, live music and yummy restaurants.

Drake Hotel’s Stardust New Year’s Eve

Go to Value Village, find some disco sparkle and platforms and head to Drake for their Stardust New Year’s Eve party. Whether you want to start your night there with a feast, head over to toast in the new year at midnight or stumble up to a room post=festivities, various tickets options give you free reign to choose. Make sure to choose a ticket that lets you sample some of their tasty fare – it’s worth it. Package details here

Elliott BROOD at Lee’s Palace

A Toronto music scene staple, this country-inspired party lets one kick off your stilettos, throw on a loose tank top and sashay into Lee’s Palace for the fourth annual Elliott BROOD NYE show. Sold out year after year, this trio belts out alt-country hit again and again. Come get your honky tonk on.

Dinner/House Party

For the low-key night, gather your closest friends, choose a house and ring in 2012 with some champers, potluck eats and watching the ball drop in New York’s Times Square on the boob tube. An intimate night that allows for actual conversation and friendly banter, it will likely be a bit less sloppy and a bit more filling.
Wherever the night takes you this year, we wish you a safe, happy and healthy 2012!

Media, Darling: Bahar Niramwalla

After many years stuck behind a desk, and her mind on the latest mascara and wondering which conditioner was worth the extra cash, Bahar Niramwalla decided to make a break for it. The very same day, she became the Beauty Basics Makeup artist and presenter with the Globe and Mail‘s Globe Life section and weekly Beauty Q&A expert for the Globe‘s Saturday Style section. A few months after that, Niramwalla began to step in front of the camera as the resident Beauty Specialist in the first season of the Marilyn Denis Show.

She’s since written for Yahoo! Canada, Sympatico.ca and has her own blog, blogbahar.com where she posts about beauty, travel and occasionally obsesses over perfume, as she owns more bottles than shoes, which is a LOT of perfume.

She is a makeup artist in Toronto and outside of playing with cosmetics as a job and, having recently conquered her fear of flying, she freelances as a travel writer and has had a chance to visit such countries as Croatia, England, Greece, Italy, India, Mexico, Slovenia and The U.A.E., just to name a few. Next on the list: Barbados or Belize.

Did you always want to be in the media? If not, what other careers were on the horizon?
I recall loving theatre and having my folks say that was no way to earn a living. I also recall hating writing in high school after an English teacher told me I was terrible at it. I ended up taking a safer route post secondary to please my parents and crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t die of boredom. 
Upon feeling like I was dying of boredom, I took a few courses in makeup to see if I could make some extra cash while doing something creative. Thousands of hours of writing, presentations, public events and ten years of marketing and promotions later, I found myself right where I wanted to be, which, as it turned out, was in front of a camera spewing my thoughts on moisturizer and flat irons and then being asked to write about them, too. Haphazardly, I ended up performing, in a way, and dishing out some not-so-terrible writing.

I’ve recently been told I don’t take good pictures. I figure if I give it a few years, I’ll be putting professional photographer on my resume, too.

Where would you like to be five years from now?
I’ve never been one to think about my life in terms of where I want to be in ‘x’ number of years, so my answer is always the same: exactly where I’m supposed to be.

That often doesn’t fly well with people who want a more concrete answer, though. I guess I’d love to find a happy medium between my passions and my skills. 

I love all things makeup, skincare and beauty. I love writing because it’s challenging and I’ve got eight years of marketing under my belt. In time, the two shall meet. Hopefully, that’ll be in around five years. That sound more concrete?

Any advice for people getting started in your industry?
Be genuine with others, honest with yourself and sometimes, take risks that seem foolish. I’ve noticed the ones that seem foolish are the ones that pay off 10-fold.

What are your favourite media outlets, not including your own? 
I’m a sucker for funny, smart writing and BeautyGeeks delivers all the time. Janine Falcon is not only a great writer, but she likes to do what I like to do: figure out why or how a product works. It’s so important to know what is going on your body and how it is doing what it claims to, especially with the launch of a new product every two seconds. I’ve also got a thing for back issues of TIME magazine and The Big Bang Theory.

Best interview you’ve ever had? Worst?
The best and worst was a random chance to meet with Susan Sarandon a year and a half ago in New York. I had about 30 seconds to come up with interview questions and I had to make them relevant, engaging and not seem like I had just come up with them 30 seconds ago. Ms. Sarandon was genuine and super cool and, after we were done, she invited me to watch her play in a ping-pong tourney at SPiN Gallery Manhattan that night. That part was the best. If it wasn’t for the New York food poisoning I picked up, I would have. That part was the worst.

Best advice you’ve ever been given?
“There’s room enough for all of us”. It applied to the current industry I am in, but the woman who spoke those words didn’t realize how much they applied to everyday life. There’s never a need to slag someone off and there’s never a need to shove someone on the streetcar.

What rule(s) do you live your life by?
Be honest with yourself and those around you. If you’re being a shit, own up to it and if someone else is, you’ve got to let them know. Fake anything and, eventually, people will catch on. Oddly enough, nobody likes a fake.

Also, eat lots o’ candy.

What’s the most important tip you can give PR pros?
To be in the PR world, you have to love what you do. We can tell when you don’t. And if you don’t, stop and realize you’re not doing what you love.

Best experience you’ve had with a PR pro? We love to hear about #wins.
Too many last minute, heart attack inducing moments have been saved by some of the pros I’ve had the pleasure of coming in contact with, but two people who made my life better are Adriana Lurz of Strategic Objectives and Courtney McGeever of Lush cosmetics. The former helped me to see travel writing as a serious avenue and makes me laugh hysterically. The latter has saved my butt in countless manic rush situations and also shares my love/secret shame of the hot mess that is the Jersey Shore.

I hate?
How negative people or energy can suck the life out of you if you let them/it.

And bad espresso.

And sugary, lame chocolate.

I love?
Laughing ’til I cry. Even more so the next day, when I remember what was so funny the night before and I randomly burst into a fit of giggles on the 504 Queen car.

And quality espresso. And sea salt, preferably in quality chocolate.

Christopher Moore’s The Stupidest Angel and Marjane Satrapi’s Embroideries.

Best place on earth?
Anywhere I get to hold my niece and nephew.

Dinner guest?
Anyone who is willing to try some of my experimental baked goods is welcome.
I always offer a Nespresso coffee afterwards to wash it down, just in case I missed the mark.

My nephew. He saved me at a moment when I thought I’d lost myself and he doesn’t even know it.

Favourite app (or whatever you are downloading these days)?
DailyHoroscope. I check it first thing every morning. It’s so accurate, it’s scary. Somedays, I think it’s watching me.

Pool or ocean?
Pool next to the ocean. That way, I get to enjoy nature’s splendor and avoid my toes touching the stuff I can’t see at the bottom.

Voicemail or email?
I once saved a VM from my nephew wishing me a happy birthday for over a year. If that didn’t exist in my world, email.

Rave: For the love of the game

Once the temperature reaches a warm 18 degrees, Canadian’s do three things right away: put on shorts, find a patio, and enroll in après work extracurricular sports. Ultimate Frisbee, soccer and baseball are regular sports on the fourth floor, but our latest obsession is ping pong. While we have yet to join a league, the opportunity is coming. This summer, SPiN Toronto is opening its doors at King and Spadina (lower level of 461 King St. W. to be exact), and we are stoked to say the least.

We’ve had a one-track mind – all things pong. So much so that some of us are even considering a road trip to Milwaukee at the end of the month to watch the 2011 U.S. Open Table Tennis Championships. Yep. We’re that pong-core.

Table tennis has the uncanny ability to make us feel reminiscent about the past, and excited for the future. Fond memories of screened-in patios, a lake and playing the best out of ten come back at the mention of ping pong.

Let’s be fair – not everyone is rushing home to put on soccer cleats and baseball gloves. Some of us prefer to be more Fashion-able and throw on slingbacks. But guess what? You can have your cake and eat it too. Model and table tennis champ Soo Yeon Lee pongs in heels.

We love this video of Soo Yeon where the fashion and ping pong worlds collide in an elegant clash.
We can’t wait for the grand opening to try out this sexy pong thing for ourselves. We’ll keep you posted on how we do. Or keep up to date by following them on Twitter @SPiN_Toronto. Memberships are on sale now.