Take a trip to Canada, now that your dollar is worth almost twice theirs


This is almost 2x as much as it looks like. via flickr user Sara Long

As Brokelyn’s resident Canadian, I’ve spent a great deal of time traveling between my hometown of Toronto and my current town of Brooklyn. And that has meant carefully watching the exchange rate between the two countries. I still remember my excitement on the day, in the spring of 2010, that Canada’s dollar finally edged (ever so briefly) beyond US currency. (I also remember the smug, derisive look on all my cashiers’ faces when I tried to slide them my Canadian bills as payment. Canada has always accepted American currency.)

But I’m not here to tell you about that victory, no sir. I’m here to accept defeat, because the Canadian dollar is currently at just below .70 cents American, and is also slated to dip much lower than that by the end of the year. In other words, you damned lucky Americans: there’s never been a better time for us all to take a trip up North! Besides, many of you have already threatened to move there if Trump gets elected.

So here’s a Canadian-approved guide to your impromptu weekend getaway in Toronto, Ontario, with Canadian prices adjusted to their US equivalent in parentheses, so you can see just how easy you’re getting off because of the exchange rate. Keep the change, you filthy animals.


Air Canada
This is Canada’s main airline, and it’s usually the pricier option, with in-flight movies and the whole bit. But they’ve been steadily decreasing flight prices in order to compete with the budget-conscious competition, so their flights can actually be cheaper than most. Right now, for example they’ve got a deep discount, where you can fly roundtrip to Toronto for just $213 USD!

With flights like these, who needs vacations? via Airline Equality

Porter Air
Canada’s weird and wonderful affordable airline, once a humble fleet of just a few dozen jets and two or three domestic destinations but now the country’s premier budget option for traveling like a classy MF. They are like the Oscar Healthcare of flying, with in-flight perks such as free wine and food, and free cappuccino lounges equipped with wifi at every departure point — not to mention an adorable raccoon as their mascot. They’re alwaysoffering sale fares, too. Right now, you can fly roundtrip to Toronto for $221 USD.

If you’re really strapped for cash and you can bear a 12-hour bus ride, Megabus is an unbelievable deal. Last-minute fares creep up to around $60, but book now for a trip a few weeks from now and you can get to Toronto for $20 USD. You could even opt for just one way’s fare, flying there and bussing back.


Drink their espresso: Gloria (478 Roncesvalles Avenue)
I remember stumbling in here to use the bathroom, and ending up with one of the better americanos I’ve ever had in Toronto. For $2.50 ($1.75)! Gloria is an unassuming little café in Parkdale that only just opened up, and it boasts a similar vibe to Crown Heights’ Colina Cuervo (actually, they have identical ceramic tiling). Minimal and unpretentious, but excellent. There are plenty of other much-loved indie coffee shops along Roncesvalles Avenue if you want to crawl, but this is the best northernmost place to start your day with a reliable cup of caffeine.

Get Well soon. via website

Try their craft beer: Get Well Bar (124 Ossington Avenue)
The exchange rate here is pretty low, too: Toronto has only a handful of good craft beer bars, and Brooklyn, as you know from our beer books, has many more. But Get Well is easily my personal favorite, with its ultra-divey vibe, arcade games, and wide selection of $7 ($4.80) drafts. Just don’t try the North of Brooklyn Pizzeria in the back — you’ll be sorely disappointed they used the name of our borough. There’s also the excellent Bellwoods Brewery nearby, which is a better happy hour option for people-watching along the bustling Ossington Avenue strip.

Do some vintage shopping: 96 Tears Vintage (1714 Queen Street W.)
96 Tears was previously just a regular pop-up at flea markets, but has now evolved into this curated brick-and-mortar outfit tucked innocuously into a strip of antique furniture and design shops. Generally speaking, large vintage stores tend to be so overwhelming that you give up on the selection halfway through, but 96 Tears has a temptingly small collection of well-maintained garments with iconic brands in their earliest editions. Think Jack Purcell pre-Chuck Taylor type stuff. Not too pricey, either: a $10 ($6.95) sale rack outside and most items hovering around $30-60 ($20-40) range.

Find your next pair of overalls here. via website

Score thrift store finds: Kind Exchange (multiple locations)
Kind Exchange is an instant consignment store much like a Beacon’s Closet or a Buffalo Exchange, but it’s even more accessible to common folk who can’t be bothered to keep everything they own in mint condition (because clothes, they are for wearing). Thrift-shop-meets-vintage prices run anywhere from $3 ($2) hats and scarves to $60 ($40) coats, but nothing’s outrageous and you can always find a deal. And if you want to sell stuff, you can get 30% store credit for your digs, or 25% cash on-the-spot.

See some dirt cheap movies: Rainbow Cinemas & Magic Lantern Theatres (Various Locations)
$5 ($3) movie Tuesdays, and $10 ($6.95) otherwise. That’s pretty much all you need to know. Much like Cobble Hill Cinema, this place screens independent flicks and second-run blockbusters. So go to Canada, and watch all of the movies for none of the money. The popcorn is the perfect amount of salty.

Have some free outdoor fun: High Park (1873 Bloor St. West)
Nestled between two hip neighborhoods, Parkdale and The Junction, High Park is Toronto’s biggest green space. Like Prospect Park, eh? If you find yourself in the city during the summer months, you can catch a free Shakespeare play there; in the winter, this 400-acre monster looks like something out of a Brontë novel. Either way, it doesn’t cost you a pretty Canadian penny to wander through it.

A strange cultural institution for Canadians. We love Swiss Chalet.


Eat their signature Canadian foods: Swiss Chalet (multiple locations)
Please, please do not go to Toronto without eating Swiss Chalet. It’s a rotisserie grill and restaurant chain that has captured the hearts of millions, simply because it is mediocre. You simply must sit through a bottomless fountain soda and contemplate the strange log-cabin kitsch of this place, while chowing down on literally anything off the menu as long as it’s dipped in chalet sauce. But I recommend the dark-meat quarter chicken dinner with french fries and chalet sauce for $9.50 ($6.60), which was my order once a week every year for 10 years.

This list isn’t by any means exhaustive— consider it your gateway drug to Toronto, should the dollar fall any farther/Trump actually get elected. There’s plenty more to keep busy, if you stick around long enough. Also, as if you needed another reason to visit, this.


The Store On Queen



Camo Gladiator

SEPTEMBER 15, 2015

For a minute over the weekend I thought for sure summer was done…but not yet! 😀

Ok, first off, I’ve been swooning over leather shorts over the summer. They’re super cute, however, the fitted ones aren’t really ideal for 35+ degree weather.

Second, I was really worried I wouldn’t be able to wear these gladiator heels before summer ended. I got them on my second trip to the CNE. I didn’t get them during my first visit b/c they were $75 and I had already gone kinda crazy at the Club Monaco and Forever 21 sales a few weeks before so I was trying to restrain myself. But then–but then–the second time I went, they were down to $50! I couldn’t leave without them! And obvi, I didn’t.

In this post, I want to share how I save some money on shopping:

1. I rarely impulse buy.
– If the supply is there, I give myself a minimum of 48hrs (I’ve even waited one to two weeks on some
occasions). I leave the item behind, and if after 48hrs I feel like I absolutely have to have it, then I
go back for it.
– The only time I’ll splurge is if it’s a really good deal, and it’s a last chance kind of buy.

2. I typically buy items in the off season or on sale.
– This is a good way to try out that fad or trendy item that you weren’t sure you wanted to spend too much
money on, or weren’t sure if it would work for you.

3. Sign up for newsletters or any free memberships. You get notifications on membership only sales, public
sales, promo codes, etc.
– Ebates for example has cashback or promo deals that allows you to earn back a percentage of what you
– Stores like Banana Republic, Forever 21, and La Senza sometimes offer member only deals, and they often
have amazing discounts for the general public.

4. I save splurges for classic pieces like a good quality leather jacket in a timeless cut/style, or black leather

5. I clean out my closet every season to get rid of items I no longer wear, and bring them to a second hand store
that trades for in-store credit, or cash.
– The Kind Exchange is a great thrift store in the GTA that I’ve visited on multiple occasions. They also donate and have a store that sells items to raise money for charity. How awesome is that?!




The top 10 places for students to shop in Toronto

Posted by Alice Prendergast / SEPTEMBER 1, 2015


The top places for students to shop in Toronto will have you thriving on a budget. Once you’ve dropped most of your hard-earned dollars on tuition and textbooks, you’re going to need to find some places to accommodate you and your last few pennies. From tech accessories to furniture, these places have got you covered.

Here are my picks for the top places for students to shop in Toronto.

Tap Phong
Chances are your new digs won’t have stainless steel kitchen complete with Kitchen Aid mixer and Vitamix, but that doesn’t mean you have to resort to cooking with plastic cutlery you stole from the closest McDonalds. Tap Phong sells restaurant-grade kitchen supplies, from cutlery to pots and pans, at a very reasonable prices. Also try the Kitchen Plus Stuff Outlet and Cayne’s for deals on essentials.

Once you’ve moved into your shoebox-sized dorm or apartment, you’ll probably want to make it look more homey. Umbra offers a ton of new student essentials, with all things you’ve never dreamed you’d need like hangable vanity organizers and shoe racks. If you’re on the hunt for bedding, Homesense and Beddington’salso offer some good deals on sheets, pillows, and duvets.

What is a student apartment without a LEIRVIK bedframe or KALLAX storage unit? The Swedish homeware giant is known for affordable furniture, and now that you’re out of the nest with a limited budget, it’s time to get yourself some of their cost-effective pieces. If you think having the same furniture as your neighbour is a faux pas, try Small Space Plus or rental company Livio Furnishing.

When you’ve got minimal space to work with, you have to stay organized. Binz (very aptly named) sells all the storage you need at a fair price. They also have a few kitchen pieces that will help you with food storage, like tupperware and water bottles. If you have a few extra bucks, MUJI also sells acrylic, plastic and linen storage pieces.

Essence of Life
Initially, you may find great pleasure in eating a solid diet of Kraft Dinner, but that’s bound to change down the line. Once you’ve reached your maximum intake of carbs, head to Essence of Life to find healthy alternatives for prices lower than Big Carrot. Other inexpensive grocery options include Grande Cheese Factory Outlet,Shasha, Peek Freans Cookie Outlet and Almost Perfect.

To succeed in school, you’re going to need the right tools. Luckily, the GTA is stocked with places catering for your technological needs. Apple tends to reign supreme in Toronto schools and they have deals that will get you add-ons (like Beats headphones) when you purchase your computer. If you’re a photography student, hit up Aden (it’s much cheaper than popular places like Henry’s).

Above Ground
Above Ground is an OCAD student’s dream, selling everything an artist could possibly need. From gesso to moulding clay, the stock seems almost unlimited – and lucky you, with a student card everything is 10% off. If you’re not in reach of Above Ground, there’s also Curry’s which offers the same discount to students, so you won’t have to pay full price for a paintbrush until graduation day.

Vidal Sassoon Academy
Often considered a period of self-discovery, you’re career as a student may bring your look to new heights. Maybe you want to buzz off your locks or die your whole head purple, regardless, there are plenty of salons with affordable pricing. Vidal Sassoon Academy is always looking for hair models and have very affordable rates. Alternately, try Parlour or Onyx for cuts (both offer student rates).

Kind Exchange
Kind Exchange will have you looking fashionable while keeping your wallet full. They offer buy, sell, trade and donate services, which means you can actually turn a profit off your old clothes or swap them in for something new. Other student clothing favourites include MEC, TOPSHOP (because who doesn’t love a 10% student discount), Winners, and the Banana Republic Factory Store.

Designer Shoe Warehouse
If there’s something you should never be without, it’s a nice pair of shoes. DSW offers endless options from Guess booties to Converse high tops at discounted rates. If you’re in the market for athletic shoes, try SVP Sports on Queen West, you’ll find Nikes, Adidas, and more for lower prices than at your average athletic store.


Pencil Skirts & Playdates: Kind Exchange

JULY 5, 2015


photo 2 (1)

I love clothes and I buy a lot of them.  Because of this, I have to clean out my closet a few times a year, with usually the biggest overhaul taking place in the spring/early summer.  Add a couple of kids closets to this job and it can make for a pretty daunting task.

Here are some of the questions I ask myself to help get me through a closet purge:

1. Have you worn it in the past year?  Think about the last 12 months…winter, spring, summer, fall…did you wear it? If not, toss it. Fancy dresses (and suits for guys) are the exception to this rule.

2. Does it make you feel good when you put it on?  If not, why are you keeping it?

3. Have you owned the item since high school (if that was 10+ years ago)?  During my last closet purge, I came across a pair of well-worn Mavi jeans from grade 11.  Grade 11! I had been keeping them because after each of my pregnancies, I wanted to see if I could squeeze back into them.  Squeeze I did, but there is no way I would wear them out in public…even if flares are back in style. Toss!  There are also exceptions to this rule. Such as my gold platform prom shoes that I am keeping for my daughter.  I know she will love to play with them one day.  Maybe even wear them to her prom. Haha.

4. At the end of your clean out, hang your hangars backwards.  Each time you wear an item, put it back on the hanger and turn it around the proper way.  Next time you clean out your closet, you’ll be able to identify which pieces you haven’t been wearing.
photo 1 (1)

5. If you haven’t worn the item in a long, long time, is there someone else in your life who would enjoy it?  Let’s say you have a green leather Matt & Nat clutch.  You haven’t used it and you only bought it because it was on sale at Winners.  Five years ago.  Your best friend LOVES everything Matt & Nat so give it to her.  It feels good to recycle.

Speaking of recycling…

Last year, a Kind Exchange opened near my home.  I love having it close by.  They are always willing to take my unwanted clothes.  You can give yours too, just follow these steps:
1. Visit and find your closest location.
2. Take in your bags of used clothing, shoes and/or accessories.
3. The Kind Exchange will sort through your items and decide which ones they want and they will make you an offer – you can take it as cash or they will keep it on file for you as a store credit for the next time you shop there.  You can also trade your stuff for items in the store right then and there if it works out.
4. They will give you a pile of clothes that they don’t want (don’t be offended – they can be picky and get a ton of great stuff all the time). You can choose to donate them (Kind Exchange will pass them along to one of their favourite charities for you) or walk away and take them to Goodwill, who will take anything.

The Kind Exchange is such a great addition to our neighbourhood.  I’ve seen everything in there from Coach and Burberry to Joe Fresh and Jacob. Unlike Value Village, it has all been carefully curated with stylish and fun windows that look like a boutique, and not necessarily a second-hand shop.  I hope in the future my Kind Exchange will start taking mens and childrens clothing. A Kids Kind Exchange would be a welcome alternative to Value Village for some parents.

Kind Exchange, I’m bringing more bags your way :-)


10 fashion stores in Toronto to follow on Instagram

Posted by Natalia Manzocco / MAY 16, 2015

There’s tons of amazing fashion inspiration to go around in Toronto – as our most gifted photographers, designers and bloggers prove. But Toronto boutiques might run some of the city’s best Instagram accounts – after all, if you’ve got tons of awesome stuff in stock, why not stage a mid-afternoon photo-shoot montage? (I might only have a vague idea of what running a store is like.)

Here are my picks for the top Toronto fashion stores to follow on Instagram.

A little girly, a little fashion-forward, and not-so-secretly Canadian – this Ossington boutique uses Instagram as an opportunity to show off their latest finds from indie designers from around the country. Expect cute prints, whimsical jewels, and the odd wacky prop.

If aesthetically-curated Instagrams are your bag (pun intended), look no further than this indie handbag designer, whose feed is a flawless sea of geometric images in black, white and metallic gues. (Oh, yeah, and the bags are pretty gorgeous, too.)

Here’s one for the fellas. It’s not tough to make Raf Simons and Comme Des Garcons pieces look good, but the West Queen West menswear store takes it to the next level with crisp photography and gorgeous street style images.

North Standard
There’s something soothing about this Parkdale shop’s Instagram feed – maybe it’s the wooden floors and soft, warm lighting, or the cozy-Canadiana feel of their merch (lots of Bay blankets, macs and Wellingtons).

Penny Arcade Vintage
This Dundas West vintage shop’s Instagram is a mix of the store’s own recent finds, hazy ’90s-style photography, and moody modern art – in short, the perfect mood board for vintage lovers.

Parloque has never shied away from the avant-garde, but the West Queen West shop has grown into showing at FAT, hosting in-stores and working with local brands – all of which means even more inspiring images of what they’re up to.

The ultra-laid-back vibe of this half-new, half-vintage shop on Queen comes through in their Instagram posts, which might show off patch-encrusted jean jackets in one frame and an action shot of vintage L.L. Bean boots in the next. (If you don’t already want to plaster Explorers Press pins on everything you own, you will now.)

Canon Blanc
Do you slavishly read every “how to get French-girl style” blog post that comes past your eyeballs? This all-French, all-the-time boutique on Queen is a must-follow – feast your eyes on chic, pastel-hued snaps of the latest imports from Petit Bateau and Anniel.

A Homerun
Yeah, clothes are great and all, but sometimes you just want a photo of mid-’90s Mariah Carey and Will Smith hugging it out. Even when they’re showing off their latest vintage pieces, this Kensington vintage shop isn’t afraid to get weird – lots of reflective visors, socks with slogans on them, and weird party decorations.

Kind Exchange
As far as eye candy goes, Toronto’s resale mega-chain is hit or miss – there’s staffers at different stores all taking pics, after all – but it’s a surefire way to learn about that dope new pair of shoes or leather jacket that just popped into your neighbourhood location, and grab it first. Think of it as your secret weapon.


Cozy Saturday

RootsSome brands are uniquely Canadian, and Roots is one that we all know and love. Even through our temperatures are beginning to warm, there are still chilly nights ahead where you may need to warm up with a sweater (or possibly within your frigid air conditioned office).

The Roots sweater is made to look like their infamous socks and it looks as cozy as it looks. It’s forty percent wool so you don’t get that itchy feeling that wool sweaters can cause. I wore it to grab coffee at Balzacs on a windy morning in April and was perfectly warm and wonderfully comfortable. I paired it with a pair of leggings and boots for a simple and casual Sunday morning outfit. I found this cozy wool sweater at the Bloor West location for $29.



CoachThere’s something to be said for the little black purse. The kind that you can grab for a night out that will go with anything you wear. That can be dressed up or works well with your jeans and t-shirt. But you don’t want just any little black purse; you want one that will get noticed. And what will get you noticed better than a designer.

I was able to find a Coach purse with all these elements at the Queen and Bathurst location. I use it mostly when going out with friends as it’s quite small for managing my day-to-day purse needs (also know as my laptop bag). The front pocket holds your essential lipstick for the night and the inside holds all necessities. It’s one of my favourite accessories and will be for quite some time. It’s definitely a long-term relationship. This find was roughly $40.



Fossil_1Ladies, let’s be real. We’ve all walked through the Fossil store and dreamed of owning one of the beautiful bags. We’ve smelled the leather, held it in our hands and then shuddered at the price tag. Then slowly left the store thinking, “someday I will spoil myself”. Well the Annex location helped me own a little piece of this dream for only $19.

This isn’t a typical style of purse for me. I tend to like to be able to throw my bag over my shoulder or across my body so my hands are free. But there was something about this bag that caught my eye. It has a large main pocket and a smaller side (which I use for my phone so I don’t have to dig through the main section). The leather is in great condition it sports the signature fossil key. A great find, and if I really need to I can get it up on my shoulder for a hands-free moment.


Grey Scale

GreyscaleAll black everything. You know you’ve heard this. But that’s no fun unless you’re Wednesday Adams. But sometimes, let’s be honest, we just feel like wearing the easiest colour on the planet. But why not leverage greys! They are a great alternative to help you mix up your neutrals. Especially for blonde beauties like myself as “all black errything” can sometimes make me look like I need to hit a tanning salon pronto.

I paired this Joe Fresh skirt with a simple black t-shirt, black tights and black booties. The skirt is superbly comfortable as it’s made from jersey (basically a sweatpants skirts). It has a drawstring waist, which I love since my waist is smaller than my hips and I tend to have the dreaded gap with every skirt I wear. It also has pockets, which is a huge selling point with skirts for me. When a skirt can properly pull off pockets without widening your hips, it is a definite find. I found this skirt at the Annex location for $11.


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