New to town…

New to town…

Okay, so maybe it’s all of the feel good holiday movies on TV right now, or the number of social events on my calendar this month, but I find myself reflecting on how much Milton has truly come to feel like home, and more and more it feels like the place where I belong. One of the biggest challenges you face when moving for love is the factor of being the new girl, or as many people called me during my first year in Milton, “Taylor’s Girlfriend.” Taylor is a pretty popular guy and he knows a lot of people in his hometown, but introductions are not his strong suit.  Being new to town could have been rather intimidating, but when I started to look for the positives, I actually found myself in a very fortunate position. Here’s why.

First of all, I actually have family here! When I first met Taylor, my Aunt Joanne and Uncle Desmond had lived in Milton for several years, and it was for this reason

Me and my Grandmother
My Grandma and I

alone that I was already familiar with it. From my nervous excitement on the hour long GO bus ride to visit Taylor for the first time, to the early days of living in Milton, knowing my family was nearby was very comforting. It gave me a sense of home and an extra sense of security.  My Aunt and Uncle provided a quiet support that allowed me to make Milton my own, but they let me know they were there if I needed them. Not long after I moved to Milton, my Grandmother also moved here. As we both grow older, it has been an amazing gift to have her so close by. It was something I wasn’t expecting and has given me the opportunity to spend time with her, which I otherwise would not have had.

It is also important that I share the huge role Taylor’s family has played in making Milton my home. Taylor’s family welcomed me with open arms from the first day I met them and quickly became an important part of my life here. Taylor’s parents have a special way of making you feel like one of the family and we have a strong passion for travel in common.  In fact, we have traveled together at least once a year since I met Taylor, to places as far away as Koh Samui, Thailand. It was during this particular trip that I also became very close with Taylor’s sister Chas and her fiancé, now husband, Todd. Both Chas and Todd helped me settle into my suburban life in countless ways, from helping me buy my first new car, to helping Taylor and I get our first pet together.  I feel very lucky to have Taylor’s family as my own.  We get together for family dinners on a regular basis and I look forward to those Sundays when we sit around the table for hours after dinner talking and laughing.

thailand
Our family trip to Thailand

Aside from family, it is also Taylor’s friends that helped turned Milton into my home. The network of friends Taylor has is impressive.  Everyone knows everyone, and they all show up to support one another in both hard times and good.  It really is something special.  For me, it was Taylor’s closest friends and especially their partners that made the biggest impression. From the start, the girls were great about asking Taylor and I to hang out as couples, and sometimes they would ask me to hang out solo too. That gave me the push I needed to be brave and start doing some asking myself. In the end it wasn’t a big deal at all, and meeting up started to happen a lot more organically. We often get together over wine, take the dogs for a walk or to the dog park, and sometimes we even take in the odd Niagara wine tour. Every summer we head up to a cottage for a weekend or two, as a big group (guys and sometimes even dogs included). It’s always a blast. These are friendships that are truly built to last.

Speaking of friendships that last, another fortunate turn of events happened before
I even moved to Milton, resulting in one of my closest Milton friendships. The

The Milton Girls
The Milton Girls and I

summer before I moved to Milton I had a few of my Toronto girlfriends up to Milton for a bonfire. At the last minute, I asked my work friend, Adina, if she wanted to join us. She agreed! She needed a change of pace from the city and she wanted an evening away with the girls. The bonfire turned into a big party, with lots of Taylor’s male friends in attendance. This will not come as a shock to those of you who know the farm. So much for that girl’s night! Sure enough, Adina ended up chatting with one of Taylor’s friends, they hit it off, and six months after I moved to Milton, Adina did as well. It’s been great having a friend from my Toronto life here with me, especially someone who is going through all of the same challenges of commuting and living in the suburbs as I am. We are discovering Milton together, have learned a lot from each other in the process, and I think we both agree that the suburbs and Milton aren’t so bad after all.

In conclusion, how you handle being new to town is all about perspective. It might be easy to feel alone and feel out of place, but I’ve found that focusing on the positive works out a lot better. Look at the people you have around you and find ways to connect with them.  Is there someone else that’s new to town as well? Go talk to them! It might be hard for you and it can be intimidating, but I promise it is one hundred percent worth it.  Having a network of people who care about you and a place you can call home is what life is all about. Happy holidays everyone!

Who is home to you?

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Craft beer and my evening in the city…

Craft beer and my evening in the city…

As I have mentioned before, one of the hardest things about moving to Milton was leaving behind my Toronto girls and our adventures in the city.  I have found the way to deal with this challenge is to make a point of having a full night out in the city every once in a while, and to do it up right! That means good food, good drinks, and trying something new, all in the company of good friends.

Last Friday I did just that, attending The Art of Craft Beer at the Super Wonder Gallery in Toronto, in support of the not-for-profit organization, SKETCH. It was a wonderful evening of delicious food, beautiful artwork and amazing craft beer. Check out a full rendition of The Art of Craft Beer Event – My evening in the city on Storify.

Sawdust Brewing Co. Stand at The Art of Craft Beer and their artwork
The Sawdust City Brewing Co. station at The Art of Craft Beer
Often my adventures in the city involve Ontario Craft Beer in some fashion, but the craft beer movement is not limited to Toronto. Far from it! Check out this video on the big impact of Ontario craft breweries…

“What about Milton?” you ask. Oh, we’re on it! Check out Milton’s very own Orange Snail Brewers for your taste of local Milton craft beer and follow them on Twitter and/or Facebook.

Who’s your favourite craft brewer? 

Food in the ‘burbs

Food in the ‘burbs

Okay, so I don’t know if I meet the full criteria of being labeled a “foodie,” but I would consider myself a great lover of all things food and drink.  I am passionate about what I choose to eat and I don’t like eating mediocre food. Living in Toronto, what I would consider a food Mecca, put me at the center of endless, amazing food possibilities. As for Milton, well it just kind of fell flat in comparison. That was until I gave it a chance.

As it turns out, Milton is full of fabulous local joints, serving up very tasty bites AND at a suburban discount. Don’t get me wrong, we are still a bit limited (especially after 10 P.M.), but for the most part there is enough to keep me talking about my last great meal.

Here are 6 of my favourite places to eat in Milton: 

Mama Mila’sMama Mila’s is a café in the plaza at Thompson and Derry. It is a simple, yet adorable, family-run café, offering up a variety of homemade sandwiches, soups and pierogies, on top of regular café fare. While the pierogies are delicious, it is their sandwiches that keep me coming back – the South Western to be exact. It is a true South Western, loaded with black beans, corn, red peppers, green onion, lettuce and cheddar cheese, all wrapped in a crepe thin egg, with shaved ham and served on a perfectly soft, yet crusty bun.  Try this with a side of their dill seasoned Borscht (beet soup) for a great lunch.

Mama Mila's Cafe

Fresh AddictsLocated in the James Snow Pkwy and Main St. plaza, Fresh Addicts is a juice and salad bar with a flair for making healthy food choices taste great. While this is a Cold Pressed Juicepricier option for take-out in Milton, it is definitely a good choice and worth every penny to treat your body right.  With a variety of options for any meal of the day, Fresh Addicts makes salads, smoothies, wraps and bowls to order; all of which are made with wholesome, fresh and organic produce. You can also get your “juice on” here, as they offer a wide selection of cold pressed juices to get that necessary boost of vitamins into your diet. My go-to meal is the Sante Fe salad, which is made with romaine lettuce (I swap it Fresh Cold Pressed Juicefor the spring mix), avocado, tomato, core black beans, cheddar cheese, and tortilla chips. I get it with a side of pesto salad dressing and add an egg for protein. All salads and bowls are priced by weight, so you can add as much or as little as you like and they have a variety of seed options like hemp and flax to further boost the nutritional factor. Shout out to Cousin Chelsea for introducing me to this healthy place and the Sante Fe salad!

For more information on Fresh Addicts and a virtual tour of their restaurant, check out The Joyce of Cooking blog and the post Freshly Addicted to Milton’s Healthy Restaurant: Fresh Addicts.

The Ivy Arms Their chicken wings to be exact! To be honest, I haven’t tried much else at The Ivy Arms, because their wings are just so darn tasty. They are huge jumbo wings, breaded (or not), fried up and tossed in your choice of sauce or dry dusted in Cajun, lemon or salt and pepper.  With the Sargent Farms retail store just across the street, you know they have to be fresh, and they are cheap Sunday through Thursday at 65 cents a wing (with the purchase of a beverage).  The Ivy Arms, or “The Ivy” as it’s called by locals, is a true Irish style pub, located on Main St. in downtown Milton.  Pub food dominates the menu, and they have a wide variety of beers on tap as well as daily specials. I love the laidback, cozy vibe there, and they have a large patio overlooking Main St. for those warm summer days.

Oshima Sushi All-You-Can-Eat  Like many sushi lovers, I was very skeptical of the whole all-you-can-eat sushi movement, so when I moved to Milton and all you could eat was “all-you-can-eat sushi,” I was rather unimpressed.* Toronto has some fantastic sushi joints and I had developed some rather high standards, so you will be surprised to know that I’ve been converted. Our go to spot is Oshima Sushi on Main Street. I say we because you should really do all-you-can-eat sushi with a group of people. Our friends Ryan and Adina usually help us out with that, and after a great deal of practice, we have finally mastered a routine to get the most out of our visits. If you Google search Oshima, you may notice they don’t have the best rating. That is likely due to the service being on the slow side, but I guarantee you it is worth the wait. Oshima is a fairly busy spot, so I am certain the fish is fresh, and they have some pretty awesome choices that rock my food world. I recommend the Fantastic Roll, which is topped with grilled red snapper, the grilled salmon sushi (you’re noticing a trend here) and the white tuna sashimi.

*To clarify, Milton does in fact have a regular Sushi restaurant called Sushi-Ya which is known to be quite good; however, the price comparison for the quantity of food is significant, causing most of our friends to want to go with All-You-Can-Eat instead.

Cheesecake with a candle.
The complimentary pistachio, vanilla and bourbon cheesecake from Pasqualino.

Pasqualino If it’s something a little fancier you are after, Pasqualino is your best bet. Located on Main St. in downtown Milton, Pasqualino is a beautifully designed, family owned Italian restaurant. Recently renovated, this restaurant has a truly elegant ambiance. Add in delicious, high quality food and amazing service, and you’ll find yourself making plans to come back before you even leave. Check out my Google Review of the restaurant after a fabulous dining experience there last January.

La Rose Specialty Foods & Fine Italian Bakery  Another family owned business, La Rose is an amazing place for all things food. Located in the plaza at Bronte and Anne Blvd., they

Mixed Olives
La Rose Mixed Olives

carry groceries, specialty goods, a to-die-for hot table, baked goods, bread and so much more, including a well-stocked and cared for garden center during the summer months.
n top of this, I find La Rose to be incredibly well priced and I visit for many reasons. If I am having a party, I’ll stop in to grab some specialty cheeses, meats and olives from their fabulous olive bar. Try the Sicilian Butter Olives (aka Castelvetrano olives); they are not
your typical olive and they literally melt in your mouth. If I want to make homemade pizza, I will pick up a bag of pre-made dough at La Rose, along with their quality mozzarella and any other toppings we want to add.  Another reason to go to La Rose is their hot table – think fine dining Italian food, to go. If they happen to have their chicken bacon lasagna, I highly recommend it.

There are several other great food places in and around Milton, and I am sure there many more I have yet to try.  When I have a particularly good meal somewhere, I will be sure to report back. Stay tuned food lovers!

Do you have a favourite food spot in the GTA? I’d love some recommendations!

…Hello Milton

…Hello Milton

I’ll say that my decision to move to Milton to be with Taylor was an easy one, and that is true for the most part. However, if I am honest, it was a big adjustment. Someone that knows me quite well may question this; after all I have moved MANY times and moving from London to Toronto was a gigantic leap into the unknown. But, the truth is I had become very accustomed to my comfort zone of close friends, easy access to work and my small life in the big city.

Living together the past few years, my roommate Kendall and I had blossomed into great friends. I also happened to have many other very good friends living nearby in Toronto. All of my close girlfriends from university days ended up living in various neighborhoods throughout the city. While my network in Milton was expanding and I actually had family here, it wasn’t going to be the same. But there is a bit more to it than that – Milton and Toronto could not be more different!

Some of the reasons my move to Milton was a big deal…

new-car
My new ride! (Nov 2012)

The commute… I kept my job in the city at Yonge and Bloor, so getting to work would now take two hours, rather than ten minutes and cost about $500 a month, instead of zero.  I started off my commuting life by taking the GO train; I hadn’t driven for two years and was nervous to get back on the road. But I was living in Milton! I had to have a car.  My time and money would become precious commodities and I would have to learn to be patient, finding ways to just enjoy the ride.

My new home “at the farm”… At the time of my move Taylor was living in his childhood home, a large 75 acre farm property just five minutes from downtown Milton.  Taylor lived in the farmhouse and worked out of the adjoining property next door. On paper this sounds like striking ‘suburban- living gold’ and in many ways it was, but there are aspects of farmhouse living that challenged the city in me.  Here are a few examples…

The farm ran on well water for plumbing, which could stop running (with very little warning) at any moment. Most often when my hands were good and lathered up with soap.

While relatively cool in the summer, the farmhouse ran on oil for heat, which turns out to be very expensive.  Being economical resulted in some cold mornings during the winter months, and water that felt like liquid ice coming from the taps.

And then there are the bugs. At any given time of year there is inevitably a species of critter that takes over the farmhouse – spiders, ladybugs, ants, bees, but the most annoying of them all were the flies! If you don’t know what a cluster fly is, be grateful. You can check them out here. For the record, in my experience they do not restrict themselves to unused rooms and they will make themselves quite at home in your bedroom.

farm
The Farmhouse

Access to food… Okay, this one might sound a bit dramatic, but I’m serious! If you learn one thing about me from my blog, it should be that I LOVE food. I enjoy cooking and trying out different recipes, but I also really enjoy eating out. Toronto has endless food options and I was coming from a neighborhood with literally hundreds of options to choose from, at any time of the day. You craved it, you got it!  While Milton has some hidden gems that serve up both delicious fast take-away options and quality sit down meals (we’ll get into those later), I discovered quickly that few places in Milton are open past 9 p.m. When you commute, getting home as late as 8 p.m. sometimes, this can be a huge disappointment.

New to town… By the time I moved to Milton I was still getting to know Taylor’s friends and their partners. I definitely had some networking to do.  While I am a people person, this can still be tricky even for the most extreme extrovert. It’s kind of like dating, except that you are dating lots of people and you want to have relationships with them all! It’s difficult to meet people in a new town and I am still working at it. This American Life podcast, Episode 587:The Perils of Intimacy Act Two “Why Can’t We Be Friends?” sums it up well.

Living with a boy… While Taylor and I have some key things in common, we differ as much as we relate. Plus, I had never lived with a boyfriend before and he had never lived with a girlfriend. To add to the mix Taylor is the baby of his family with two older sisters, while I am an only child. This was going to be interesting.