Category Archives: Local News

MURANO GLASS, the fabulous art from Venice’s historic island of craftsmen

My friends at Gallery 36 in Yorkville (Toronto) invited me over yesterday to check out their ever-growing collection of stunning art glass from the island of Murano, home to some of Italy’s greatest crafstpeople. In this cozy boutique gallery you will find breathtaking pieces from glass “masters” such as Rossi, Alfiero, Medici, Russo, Bellisio, Mercato and others, in all shapes, sizes and a rainbow of colours.

20150314_145320I found some functional bowls and vases as well as sculptures of animals, birds, even festive crustaceans!

20150314_145118 20150314_145157 20150314_145921 20150314_145342I had a chuckle when I spied these cheeky kitty-cats (below)

20150314_145814 20150314_145832and all the other wee glassy beasties….

20150314_145751 20150314_145925 20150314_155513Gallery owner Trevor was busy changing the window display so a snapped him hard at work…

20150314_145524 20150314_145520…. and dusting his friend, the zaftig bronze ballerina (below). I just love her!

20150314_145421The gallery is chock-a-block full of wonderful and affordable pieces suitable for your mansion, apartment, loft or basement hide-away.

20150314_155445 20150314_155500Just look at these bowls and the intricate art found inside each…

20150314_145213 20150314_145632 20150314_155428 20150314_155434The glass is created using the “lampwork” technique – made from Silica which becomes liquid once it reaches an extremely high temperature. As it starts to harden, the “glass” is still soft enough to allow the artisan to shape the materials. You can see the amazing results of this all around you at Gallery 36. I recommend popping in and I’m sure you will find something that fits your home and your wallet. And say hi from me.

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GALLERY 36

92  Avenue Road, Toronto, ON M5R 2H2  T: (416) 962-7636  http://www.gallery36.ca

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MY SUNDAY “IN THE ROOM” WITH CANADA’S LEADING TV STARS

I recently met Rafael Kalamat and Jason Barbeck, founders of Reel Deal Guys Entertainment Inc. (RDG) (pictured below, L-R) who have created an original TV series, IN THE ROOM, featuring Canadian actors from all ages and stages of career success in a round-table discussion setting.

photo 1 (5)This past Sunday, I attended a taping – their second “Hollywood North” themed episode – at the Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto, where they welcomed some of our country’s finest and most award-winning stars, pictured below: Tantoo Cardinal (Dances With Wolves, Legends of the Fall), Kris Holden-Ried (Lost Girl, The Listener, The Tudors), Shawn Doyle (Endgame, Covert Affairs, Reign), Zoe deGrand’Maison (Orphan Black, Rookie Blue, Bad Hair Day), Philip Moran (Total Recall) and the multi-talented actor, director and mainstay of 80s and 90s TV and film Art Hindle (Black Christmas, FaceOff, Murder She Wrote, ENG).

TantooKHR2Shawn DoyleNicolePhilipArt HWith Rafael and Jason co-hosting, the stars took the stage during the closed-taping, and shared stories from the acting trenches. Supported by a highly proficient crew, Rafael and Jason captured intimate moments with each actor as they shared stories of screen triumphs, emotional impact of past roles, on-set camaraderie & rivalries, and many hilarious tales from behind as well as in front of the cameras.   So why is this new show not on TV now? Canada, and Toronto in particular, has a huge TV viewing audience many of whom, it appears, love reality and chat shows so how come all we have to watch are the chaotic morning shows with predominantly weather and traffic news, tired homemaker magazine shows, dry-as-a-bone political argument panels, plus a couple of celebrity gossip shows targeting the hipster 20/30-something crowd? We need our own “Tonight Show” or a Graham Norton-style outrageous celebrity couch programme (if you have BBC Canada you’ll know exactly what I mean). In The Room could easily fill that void AND please advertisers – let’s face it, networks don’t really give a rat’s ass about content, it’s all about the potential for billions of advertising dollars!

Based on the amount of traffic my Tweets and Facebook posts garnered during the shoot yesterday, I know we have an audience for shows like In The Room so consider this blog editorial as me throwing down the gauntlet – let’s get In The Room on air. So anyone out there know a hungry distributor or network buyer?  http://reeldealguys.com/

logoHere are some behind the scenes photos, courtesy of my wonderful Samsung Galaxy 3!

(below) make-up room shenanigans with Shawn, Kris, Tantoo and Zoe….

20150308_111355 20150308_111405 20150308_112356Setting up the stage….then bringing in the actors!

20150308_101419 20150308_120446 20150308_120514 20150308_125750Time for a break….with the best craft services in town!

20150308_101524 20150308_103717(above LtoR) Crew members Lana & Dwayne joined Jason and actor Brian Kaulback (Murdoch Mysteries) during break time.  Then back to work…roll cameras!

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20150308_141002I spent some time with the lovely ladies in make-up, Carlene & Stephanie (below), whom I challenged to a face/off – make me pretty in 10 minutes – but they just laughed…I wonder why?

20150308_135059 20150308_135135 20150308_135118Once In The Room finished taping, the actors and hosts gathered for a “class photo”….

20150308_140111 20150308_135944….then it was time for some candid shots on stage…..

20150308_135642 20150308_135720 20150308_131202 20150308_140332 20150308_135800 20150308_135812…then the good-byes, with the actors signing posters backstage. This is where Assoc. Producer Janine grabbed some quick pics with the stars. She especially enjoyed taking one with her fave TV actor, Kris Holden-Ried (pic#4) who I still say looks like Chris Martin from Coldplay (here they look much cuter than Chris and Gwyneth, don’t ya think?)

20150308_140916 20150308_130833 20150308_141129 20150308_141210 20150308_141641 20150308_141559 20150308_141305I grabbed a wacky selfie with my all-time Canadian idol, Art Hindle. What a nice man…and so damned talented.

20150308_114021Congratulations to RDG for producing such a great show which, once it gets on air, will have a large and appreciative audience. For details of IN THE ROOM and other RDG projects, visit:  http://reeldealguys.com/

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HELP…GET ME OUTTA HERE – I’M HAVING WAY TOO MUCH FUN !

This coming weekend, Ottawa will experience the launch of a fun, interactive live game that challenges problem-solving skills, patience, and bravery at CLAUSTROPHOBIA, the new “escape room” game venue located in Ottawa’s Hintonburg/Mechanicsville neighbourhood.  I recently spoke with Claustrophobia founder and architect of the current two rooms , Jennifer Schnare (below) who kindly shared the who, what, where, when, why and how about this worldwide phenomenon where teams of friends, family, classmates or co-workers are locked into mysterious rooms and have to solve puzzles and clues in order to unlock the door….and escape.  It’s a thrilling, spine-tingling game that results in trust and team building which usually ends up with tons of laughs all around.

Everest 341Jennifer, what inspired you to open an escape room gaming venue?
I played an escape room for the first time about a year ago and was immediately drawn to the concept. Not only did I have an amazing time in the room and trying to solve the puzzles, but I continued thinking about it after I left.

Why Ottawa?
I first started the planning for Claustrophobia to launch in Toronto but it quickly exploded into a phenomenon and there were a significant number of competitors. I moved to Ottawa and quickly saw that there was a market here, too, and only one other competitor.

get me out Key ImageWhat’s the background or history of the “escape room” phenomenon?
The real life escape room phenomenon was inspired several years ago by “escape room” video games popularized in Japan, and the live game has already taken off in the U.S., England, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand, and Mainland China. Over the past couple of years, escape room game venues have mushroomed all across the US and now Canada, and is ideal for families, friends and companies looking to encourage team building with their staff.

trapped2Who writes all the clues and comes up with the room themes for Claustrophobia?
I do with the help of my close family and friends. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without their support!

Did you personally have to search for all the furnishings and nic-nacs to create the correct ambiance for each room? And where did you find these things?
Yes, I found all the furniture and décor accessories! This was a big job, sourced over months. Kijiji was my biggest source for the larger furnishing – I was renting a Uhaul and driving around Ottawa and surrounding areas by myself, relying on the kindness of the seller to help me lift things. Many of the smaller pieces came from sites like e-Bay, Etsy and Amazon.

labWhat business background do you have that suggests you will make Claustrophobia a resounding success?
I’ve worked as a fundraiser and marketer for over 12 years. This has allowed me to gain the skills in everything from managing a budget, sourcing and working with vendors, to finding cost-effective ways to advertise, developing creative ideas and problem-solving.

Do your friends and family think you’re nuts…or are they all supportive and helping out?
Oh yes indeed, they do think I’m a bit of a nut…LOL…but they’re all very supportive and love to help out. Most have said that they “can’t believe I am doing this” and “I wouldn’t have had the guts to do this” but I wanted to take the risk because I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t. And I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur.

Describe the two rooms your currently offer, and their capacity.
There are two rooms – The Laboratory (see description here: http://claustrophobiagame.ca/escape-rooms/the-laboratory) which accommodates 2 to 5 people. The second room is The Hostel (see description here: http://claustrophobiagame.ca/escape-rooms/the-hostel) and it accommodates 2-4 people. It’s important to me that the rooms don’t feel crowded and that you don’t have to play with strangers. I also wanted to ensure you have a full hour to complete the puzzles.

RoomAny plans to increase or expand the current rooms?
Yes! My current venue has the room to expand and I’m already in the process of mapping out the new game room called ‘The Gallery’.

trapped lockHow do people book the rooms and do you have any plans for a Claustrophobia tournament in the near future?
People can book via the website. For the grand opening weekend coming up (March 12-March 15) we’re offering a special discount: $25 per room using promo code ESCAPE25. I don’t have plans for a tournament at this early stage but there are opportunities for corporate team building, birthday packages and of course we have a prize for the team who gets out the fastest every month by room.

ClaustrophobiaBlack (2)To learn more about Ottawa’s newest live “escape room” venue and to book a room, please visit www.claustrophobiagame.ca

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“IN THE ROOM” tv show taping this Sunday featuring top Canadian talent

My friends at RDG Entertainment Inc. are taping another episode of their IN THE ROOM actors’ round-table series this Sunday at the Glenn Gould Studio in downtown Toronto and I’m thrilled to learn that some of Canada’s most popular actors will be appearing.

RDG producers and show hosts, RAFAEL KALAMAT and JASON BARBECK (below, L-R) will be welcoming …..

photo 1 (5)…..the star of TV’s Lost Girl, KRIS HOLDEN-RIED (below) who was also one of my faves from The Tudors series and, of course, The Listener.

Kris HR KHR2Also on this week’s panel are Canadian stage & screen icon Art Hindle (Black Christmas, FaceOff, Murder She Wrote, ENG) – below…..

Art H Hindle

…..multi-award winning Shawn Doyle (below) of Endgame and countless Canadian television appearances (Rookie Blue, Covert Affairs & Reign)….

Shawn Doyle Shawn….recipient of this year’s ACTRA Award of Excellence Tantoo Cardinal (below) of Dances with Wolves (my personal fave performance of hers – she brought the heart and soul to the story) , Legends of the Fall, Blackstone

Tantoo dances….Total Recall’s Philip Moran (below)…

Philip….and young Zoe deGrand Maison (below) currently making a name for herself with appearances on Orphan Black, Murdoch Mysteries, Rook Blue and this year’s Bad Hair Day (TV movie).

NicoleI’m looking fwd to watching the taping and meeting these incredible ambassadors for the Canadian TV and film industry.  To learn more about In The Room and other RDG projects, please visit:  http://reeldealguys.com/  and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

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RDG’s Jason & Rafael celebrate last night’s ACTRA Toronto Awards

Rafael Kalamat and Jason Barbeck (below, left to right) of RDG Entertainment Inc. attended last night’s ACTRA* Toronto Awards held at the Carlu in downtown Toronto. The fabulous soiree was hosted by TV and radio personality Arisa Cox, host of Big Brother Canada. The RDG guys were thrilled to meet up with ACTRA colleagues and friends, and they shared the evening with me via photos.

photo 1 (5)Actor and comedian Gavin Crawford (below right with Rafael) garnered the Outstanding Male Performance award for his role as Adam in the comedy-drama film Two 4 One, about a transgender person who unexpectedly becomes pregnant.

With Gavin CrawfordStar of sci-fi series Orphan Black, Tatiana Maslany, won her second Outstanding Female Performance Award, and Cory Doran won in the category of Outstanding Voice Performance for playing Multiple Personality Mike in the “Final Wreck-ening” episode of the animated series Total Drama, a parody of reality shows.

Veteran film and TV actress Tantoo Cardinal, pictured below with Rafael (left) and Jason (right), was honoured with ACTRA Toronto’s annual Award of Excellence.  I will always remember Tantoo for bringing the real heart to Dances With Wolves and Legends of the Fall and many more productions over her 4+ decades of acting.

Tantoo CardinalJamie Jones, winner of the ACTRA Stunt Award, is pictured below (2nd from left) with fellow stunt actor Clyde Phillips Sr. (left), Rafael and Bart Badzioch, stunt actor (right)

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Philip & Jamie JonesAnd actor Philip Moran shared a celebratory cocktail and V for Victory with Jamie.

“The performers honoured tonight make us proud to be Canadian. They show off Canada to Canada and to the rest of the world in all its marvellous diversity. And they do it with unique and outstanding talent,” said David Sparrow, President of ACTRA (pictured below 2nd from right with Jason, Philip and Rafael)

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Congratulations again to all the winners, nominees and ACTRA Toronto organizers.  Next up, Canadian Screen Awards on March 1st.  See you on the red carpet!

* ACTRA is Canada’s national union representing more than 22,000 performers in English-language recorded media. The Toronto chapter represents 15,000 union members.

 Visit Rafael and Jason at  http://reeldealguys.com/

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G2R BRINGS GENESIS MUSIC TO LIFE FOR TORONTO FANS @ HUGH’S ROOM GIG MARCH 10

I recently browsed the upcoming concert schedule for Toronto venues and next month, Hugh’s Room is presenting G2R (details at end of story), who play the music of Genesis, one of my favourite bands I listened to in the 70’s & 80’s.

GenesisI was always a huge Peter Gabriel fan but must admit I always prefered his solo work (Shock the Monkey, Biko, Sledgehammer), and that cheeky-monkey Phil Collins always made me smile whether he was on the drums or on screen with his movie career. When I read about G2R, I knew I had to reach out to them and learn more so I connected with band spokesman and keyboard player, Doug Chase (pictured below) who told me more about the accomplished Canadian musicians who make up G2R and their journey through Genesis’ musical history and repertoire.

IMG_1560Doug, what inspired the formation of your band, G2R and why the name?  I think individually we have all wanted to do this very amazing and difficult music and then it kind of happened by accident. G2R is short for Genesis to Revelation which was the first Genesis album and has a ‘beginning to end’ connotation which fits with us doing all eras of Genesis music. We didn’t want to use ‘Genesis to Revelation” because it might confuse listeners into thinking we were just doing music from that first album.

How did all the players come together – were you all friends or previous bandmates? Three of us met at an audition. And it took us a while to find the right singer and drummer;  we lucked into finding a top notch drummer in John Walker and then we met vocalist James Hastings. A lot of people can do Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins decently, but not many can do them well. James does them both brilliantly.

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IMG_1509How long have you been performing as G2R?  We’ve been putting this together for about 5 years but finally playing for the past two years. Our music is a tribute to Genesis and we play it with the utmost professionalism and dedication to honour the music.

Who are your audiences? Are they boomers or younger, prog-rock fans? It’s more boomers than anything, but people of all ages enjoy our music for sure. Genesis is a bit more niche than bands like The Beatles or Queen, so the kids haven’t found their music quite as easily. But once they do, you won’t find many people who don’t enjoy Genesis music. That’s the great thing about Genesis – they explored so many avenues so they’re bound to connect with just about everyone on some level.

20141108_203857Who do you prefer: Gabriel or Collins…or another era? We like all eras of the band but with one commonality – where the music has depth. ‘Selling England By The Pound’ was concise and had great melodies and beautiful arrangements, as did ‘A Trick Of The Tail’, ‘Duke’ and ‘We Can’t Dance’. Genesis was never afraid to venture into new directions, but every album still maintained an utmost dedication to being true to themselves and their music at that time. We enjoy playing ‘Second Home By The Sea’ as much as ‘In The Cage’. Some of our audiences prefer the Gabriel era while others prefer the Collins era but we play music from both eras – eventually everyone hears music they love.

Gabriel CollinsWhat songs are most requested by your fans? Fans love hearing ‘Carpet Crawlers’, ‘In the Cage’, ‘Mama’ and ‘Watcher of the Skies’.

Where have you previously played and what upcoming shows can your fans attendWe’ve played theatres like The Blackforest Inn in Waterloo, The Jazz Room and others and had dates set up for The Shenkman Centre in Ottawa, The Rialto in Montreal and places in Quebec City and Cape Breton…..until Brian May of Queen called up our guitarist Bob Wegner and asked him to come do We Will Rock You in Europe for a few months. So Bob is now in rehearsals for We Will Rock You down in warm sunny Florida and our original Spring tour has been postponed.  But it’s the upcoming show at Hugh’s Room in Toronto that is uppermost in our minds right now….we want to rock Toronto!  Please visit our website for news of performance dates later this year once Bob returns. G2R official website: http://g2r.ca/

G2R is:
James Hastings, vocals
Bob Wegner, guitar
Tom Nagy, bass
John Walker, drums
Doug Chase, keyboards
(full bios on the G2R website)

G2R plays Hugh’s Room in Toronto on Tuesday March 10th. Tkts $25 in advance or $27.50 at the door.
Details here:  http://hughsroom.com/2015/01/genesis-to-revelation-g2r/

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THE LITTLE TORONTO NEWS SITE THAT COULD – MEET PUBLISHER KJ MULLINS OF NEWZ4U.NET

About 18 months ago, I was introduced to one of Toronto’s unsung heroes, a woman who launched a news site that champions the underdog stories and gives a voice to those causes and issues that don’t get much exposure in mainstream media due to their lack of media “sexiness” or mass appeal. These are the stories that confront day-to-day life and issues in the naked city.  KJ Mullins is passionate about Toronto and her neighbours, and publishes her daily NEWZ4U.NET e-newspaper with the help of talented reporters and photographers dedicated to bringing the real news to you without corporate or advertiser “filters” and without fluff or filler content.

I recently sat down with KJ and asked her to tell us all about NEWZ4U.net and what prompted her to create the site.

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Tell us a little about KJ Mullins – what is your personal journalism/business background?
KJ: I started out in college on the journalism track but went to drama/psy instead. Ten years ago after other jobs and being a stay at home mom, I got the writing bug again and this time went full steam.  One of the first articles I wrote back in college helped to bring forth positive changes for disabled students rather quickly, and seeing that I could make a difference was really powerful.

KJ MullinsWhen was your website first launched?
KJ: I launched NEWZ4U.NET on May 12, 2010.

What first inspired you to create Newz4U & what news niche wasn’t being fulfilled by the national newspapers?
KJ: I wanted to get my voice out there and the voices of others who may not fit into the mainstream model. Social issues like homelessness, poverty, LGBT issues and the arts are often overlooked in the mainstream because if it’s not a ‘front and centre’ story it isn’t sexy. The same is true with stories on the city’s front line responders – in mainstream media the motto of if it bleeds it leads also means that stories about good works aren’t covered. It’s rare to find articles about the various Kops and Kids programs that do curb youth violence.

homeless porter_002 DSCF8097How did you source your first news items?
KJ: We have always sourced our news items in the same way; with on the scene and through interviewing with fact checking. We also use reliable newswires for additional coverage. 

What sort of feedback did you receive from readers once the first few editions were e-published?
KJ: Knock on wood, from the beginning we’ve had positive feedback. For the readers who had personal issues in the city like a pot hole appearing and reappearing at their Toronto Community Housing building which we helped to bring positive results, the feedback was extremely positive.

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DSCF0879Who are your readers and how do you reach them?
KJ: Our readers are mostly from Toronto and are generally 25+, evenly mixed between genders. Most have university educations and many are movers and shakers. They are interested in social change and the arts.

DSCF3761As a web-based news source, what sort of reach does Newz4U enjoy?
KJ: In 2014 we had over 449K readers who read over 2.4 million articles. We average 31K monthly readers going through 146K articles.

What stories do you look for?
KJ: We are always looking for new stories about social issues. Fresh produce in the city, and childhood hunger is a current issue we are tackling hard. In Canada’s largest business city it is mind-blowing how many go to bed hungry every night or haven’t got a bed to sleep in. We’ve covered Pride and the Caribbean Festival for several years, looking into the areas that aren’t touched by mainstream.

DSCF2517The arts are also a strong interest for us. We cover as many events, big and small, as possible. Right now we are working on the RBC Taylor Prize and the Lionel Gelber Prize, both covering Canadian non-fiction literature. Each shortlisted book is read and reviewed prior to the prize announcements. It’s a lot of work but promoting our Canadian authors is very important. These men and women are putting forth some amazing work. Photography, fine arts and music are also a prime focus. We hope to be at the Junos this year with one of our newest writers whose focus is music.

DSCF8833 DSCF6408We will also be covering sports at the Pan Am Games. Our sports photographer, Hugh McClean, has been covering soccer and rugby in the past year, two sports that get very little coverage in the city.

?????????????????????Do you offer sponsored pages or ad space and if so, what is the range of $s?
KJ: This is a hard one for us but yes we do have ad space. Ads run from $25 to $150 a month depending on placement. We have plans to change up our layout in mid-March/early-April that will allow for pages to be sponsored as well. Prices for this are still in the works.

We also have a sponsorship program which gives ‘free’ ad space for Toronto small businesses. Our Angel sponsors keep us going and growing.

NEWZ4U.NET gives back to the community by offering local grassroots and small charities space for promoting themselves and their events for FREE.

How do people reach you for editorial coverage and/or advertising?
KJ: We are always available via email at editor@newz4u.net. We respond within 24 hours Monday-Friday. You can always get in touch with me personally on Twitter @kjjournalist.

20141018_143931Above photo: G.J. Fordham

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