Holiday Spirit Gift Boxes | Red Door Family Shelter

You can help families get back on their feet and start again. Many families arrive at our shelter with little other than the clothes on their backs. By donating gift boxes of essential items for women and children you can make a difference when they arrive at the shelter or are moving out and starting a new home.

We encourage you to box or package items according to these categories:
Gift Boxes

Winter Wear – jackets, boots, hats, mitts & scarves, snow pants
Clothing – socks, underwear, sweaters, jeans and pants (for all ages and genders)
Toiletries – body wash, lufas, lotion, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, women’s hygiene etc.
Kitchen – department store gift cards, cutlery, kitchen knife sets, plates, kettles, small appliances (toaster, microwave, blender, coffee maker, etc.)
Bed and Bath – department store gift cards, sheets, towels, kids bedding
Baby – clothing, formula, diapers & supplies
Teen – gift cards (itunes, mall gift cards, etc.), age appropriate toys, books, toiletries/make-up, hair accessories
Food – grocery store gift cards, non-perishable food
Toys – age appropriate toys for children 0 – 12

All items must be new and unwrapped. Boxes or baskets can be wrapped with clear cellophane.

If you are interested in this program please contact our Holiday Giving Coordinator at or 416-915-5671 x234.


1) Are there any items I should avoid donating?
Please avoid gifts that may be deemed as violent as many of our families are survivors of violence or war (e.g. War toys, replica guns).

Please avoid donating used items at this time of the year. We will begin accepting used items as of January 26th, 2015.

2) Are tax receipts available for donations?
Tax receipts will not be provided for in-kind donations. Only financial gifts of $20 or more are eligible for tax receipts.

3) What is the latest date that I can drop off gifts?
Last day for drop off of gifts: Monday December 15th, 2014.

Drop off Location: Red Door Family Shelter—Administrative Office
21 Carlaw Avenue, Toronto, Ontario M4M 2R6
Drop off hours: 9:00am—6:00pm

Holiday Spirit Gift Boxes | Red Door Family Shelter.

September/October Update

This September we’ve been quite busy checking out some Oakville real estate, walking around the town, seeing the locations of schools, malls etc.  It’s exciting to think that in a year or so we will own our first house together! We’re probably more excited about this than our wedding 🙂  Finally we will have some outdoor space for a dog, and enough indoor room for a larger one if we choose to get a Bernese or a breed around that size.  James has never owned a dog before, so we will have to do the training together of course! Some people tell us that raising a dog is a lot of work, which is very true, but anything in life worth having is worth working for right?  I grew up always having a dog around, so I know how much they can change your life for the better 🙂

The temporary St. Jacobs market is up and running, with about sixty percent of their vendors returned.  We asked a man who worked there when the new permanent structure would be up, and he said they would “break ground” in November of this year but no date on when they would finish.  The only vendors which seemed to be missing were some of the jewelry, quilts and crafting. All veggie/fruit, meat and cheese vendors were back and seemed to be doing very well!

We haven’t made any huge strides in our wedding planning as of yet, but did go for our cake tasting and decided on our wedding invitations 🙂  The small and large details of a wedding can add up rather quickly, and before you know it you’re over your head (and over your budget!). James and I tend to be very like-minded, especially when it comes to finances, so we decided to just keep things simple and concentrate on what the day is really about.. looveee and marriage!  Of course we want everyone to have a wonderful time, but so many “special touches” are just frivolous and a waste of money (in our opinion). Sometimes we wish we had just eloped, or gone to city hall. Too late now, IT’S ON!

One of my dearest and oldest buds invited us over to play this boardgame called Twilight Imperium, which is this epic 5 to 8-hour-long game of galactic conflict where you take the role of one of seventeen ancient civilizations and try to seize the imperial throne through trade, warfare, allegiances, technological advances, etc! It is just an insane game, which requires lots of pee breaks and snacks galore. We had a blast and want to do it all over again! It reminds me of the video game Mass Effect if you have ever played that.  Sci-fi everything is my jam.


Both of my parents’ Birthdays are in October, so there are usually party decorations up for the entire month.  I took my Mom out to her favourite Greek restaurant and bought her some nice winter boots.  My Dad prefers for me to cook him a dinner of his choice, which I really like! I don’t normally get to bust out my Cordon Bleu chef skills, so it’s nice to make something fancy once in a while.  Jamesy and I took him to see Cirque du Soleil which he hadn’t ever seen before; he said that he will never forget it.  Next year we are planning on taking both of my parents; maybe it will become an annual tradition!


In our ongoing quest to simplify our lives and concentrate on mindfulness, we attended two of Ajahn Brahm’s public talks. The first was at the UofT Earth Sciences Centre where the topic was “Why practice self-compassion?”. The second was at the Toronto Mahavihara where the topic was “Sublime Abidings (brahmaviharas): Loving-kindness,compassion, altruistic joy and equanimity”. Ajahn Brahm is so warm and personable, and teaches mostly by telling stories of his or other’s experiences. He attended Cambridge to study theoretical physics, and after graduating and teaching for a year, he decided to travel to Thailand to become a monk and train with Ajahn Chah who was an influential teacher of the Buddhadhamma. His talks can range from speaking on meditation and Buddhism, to self-help topics and gender equality and the empowerment of women in Theravada Buddhism.  He doesn’t visit Toronto too often, but anytime he does we will try to see him!


James is thinking about starting his own Buddhism and meditation blog soon, so I may set one up for him in a few weeks!

Life Update!

I have been very lazy about posting to this blog in the past year. Tatata. That’s what my Trinidadian workmate Pearl says whenever she disapproves of something.. tatata. 🙂

It’s been just about 11 months since I’ve written anything here, so I will try to do a quick-ish (that’s a lie) recap of the highlights and lows of the past year:

October 2013

  • James and I went on a lovely trip to Montreal for a week or two, and stayed in this boutique hotel, which included a little kitchenette area so that we could cook some of our own meals and eat breakfast at “home” every morning before we went out on our adventures.  While there we checked out the Chihuly exhibit at the Musée des beaux-arts, ate some AMAZING Indian food, had some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted and visited the new Planetarium.  We absolutely love the vibe Montreal has, and make a point to visit there every year.  A plus is that I know the city quite well, as I visited my cousin and his wife there during many summers, and also took a few school trips there when I was younger. No getting lost!
  • My Dad’s 65th Birthday was last year!  Our tradition is that I cook him a dinner of whatever he wants, dessert included!  I think we also took him out for dinner, and knowing how much he loves his single malt whiskey (me too!) I bought him a 21 year old archive scotch that he still talks about today and even has a bit left of haha
  • Took out my Mom for her Birthday, and as always she wanted to go to her favourite Greek restaurant lol.  I’ve forgotten what I gave her for a present, but it was probably a few gift certificates.. as she likes shopping for herself! 😉 Last year was her big B-Day celebration, but the next milestone is coming soon!

November 2013 to January 2014

  • Was in two car accidents (one with my Mom and one with James). Nobody was hurt, and although the damage to the vehicles was great (well James’), there was no rise in insurance. Phew!
  • The Toronto ice storm of 2013! I will never forget that.
  • Went to the One of a Kind Christmas Craft show with James and his Mom.  James and I had to sneak off to buy his Mom these earrings she liked 🙂  She bought a ton of soap and other goodies, and we found some great Xmas presents!
  • James and I helped out with this charity called Santa Comes to Bay Street, where a family (or however many you’d like to help) is chosen at random, and you go out and purchase some Christmas presents of their choosing.  They are then wrapped up nicely by volunteers and given to the families.  This is such a fantastic charity that really warms our hearts.  The recipients are mostly comprised of women’s shelters from the downtown Toronto and GTA areas.  These are transitional housing shelters, where women and their children can find refuge from abusive households, and find some help getting back on their feet.  Shelters like Juliette’s Place and Red Door among the many others are so important to have available, and should not be pushed aside to build more condos. 😐  We are very passionate about this as you can tell!

February 2014

  • This was the month my Jamesy proposed to me!! We went to eat at one of our favourite Japanese restaurants, which is also where we went on our first date 12+ years ago! I knew it was coming, because he kept asking about ring sizes and what styles I liked, but did not know when he would pop the question.  It was a very special day that I will always remember!! :))

March to April 2014

  • We started planning our engagement party, with the date set as August 02.  Exactly one year before our wedding!  Yes the party took 5 MONTHS to plan hahahaha
  • Booked our wedding day venue with Auberge du Pommier.  When we eat there, it is like an out of body experience.  Ohhh yeahh, sorry I’m drooling a bit.

May 2014

  • My Birthday (I turned 73) and my cousin’s wedding at Archeo in the Distillery District!  Got to catch up with a bunch of relatives I hardly ever see.  It was a lovely day ❤
  • Some bad news, James’ grandfather (DziaDzia) passed away. He had quite a fruitful life, was such a hard worker, kind soul and loving Grandpa.  He will always be remembered fondly.

June 2014

  • One of James’ closest friends moved out of the city, and relocated to NYC.  His wife has lived there for about half a year, as she received an amazing job opportunity that she couldn’t turn down!  He will come back to visit every now and then, but will be greatly missed. Such a great guy!
  • We found many new places to hike (and be bitten by mosquitoes) outside of the city.  Normally we stick to parks and gardens in and around Toronto, but during the summer months we like to venture out and try out some new areas. Our favourites are some of the conservation areas along the Bruce Trail.  We just have to remember to bring OFF mosquito spray!
  • Discovery of Nandos Flame-Grilled Chicken Restaurants.  This is probably the most important part of 2013/2014. Joking joking 😉  But boy are we PASSIONATE about Nando’s chicken.  I think they put something in it that makes you addicted to the juicy, succulent tangy spiciness mmmm mmm
  • I began studying for the Canadian Securities Course.  Not to take the exam, but to have a better grasp of micro and macro economics, fixed income investing, stocks, composition of bond market and so on!  As most or all of you know, James’ job is in finance, so I have already learned quite a lot from him over the years!  We are very much on the same page financially (big savers!), but as we grow older and invest further I’d really feel more comfortable having the same amount or close to the same amount of knowledge of investing as he does. He helps me study quite a bit and I feel like I’ll be able to start reading level 1 CFA course soon!

July 2014

  • Engagement party planning getting more hectic as we come closer to the day.  Lots of crafts, cooking, planning and general freaking out. People tell me that I should go into party planning or wedding planning, but do you know how much Xanax I’d need for that? lol
  • One of the best days of the year so far!  James and I helped out my Dad with this Charity sale where all proceeds went to Syrian Refugees.  We set up outside of a small church on Bloor Street downtown, with the help of many of my Dad’s co-workers from his ESL school. We sold quite a lot of items, worked hard and it was so rewarding! The MP Carolyn Bennett stopped by and took a picture of my Dad and his co-workers and posted it on her twitter 🙂 I screen-capped it as soon as I got home.

 August 2014

  • We had our engagement party and I think it turned out to be a success! Everyone who was invited came, and the families seemed to be having a good time. It’s only been a week and a half since the party, but I still feel exhausted even thinking about it haha
  • That’s all! I think I’ve remembered all of the most important parts of the past year in this post.. you never know, I am getting older :p Now we’ve just got to get started on this wedding planning….

Fire destroys St. Jacobs Market

We are both so sad to hear the news about the overnight fire that burned down the main building at St. Jacobs Market this long weekend. Thankfully no one was hurt. Just last week we were there picking up some fresh produce for new recipes we wanted to try out. We’ve made many many memories there over the years, and hope that this won’t negatively impact the vendors too severely.

I’ve read that the outdoor market area will still be open on Thursdays and Saturdays, and that they plan to set up large tents for the indoor vendors to use. So if you happen to be in the area, or just want some of the best produce/meats/cheese/tea/pie, etc., please show your support and do some shopping at the market. There is talk of rebuilding the market quickly, and fast-tracking the building site plans and permits. Hopefully they will be back up and running by Summer 2014.

“Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.” ― Thích Nhất Hạnh

thich nhat hanh

James is away this week on a Thích Nhất Hạnh meditation retreat at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. It’s a special retreat focused on educators (though it is opened to all), and includes international guest speakers from the field of mindfulness and education.

For the past four or five years James has been immersing himself in Buddhist teachings, taking courses, meditating daily, reading many Buddhist texts and the Pāli Canon.

He’s been looking forward to this retreat for many months, and I know he is going to have a peaceful and educational time there 🙂

To give a bit of background about Thích Nhất Hạnh, he is a Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Monk, author and peace activist who travels internationally to give retreats and talks. He studied comparative religion at Princeton University, and later was appointed lecturer in Buddhism at Columbia University. After visiting the U.S. and Europe in 1966 on a peace mission, he was banned from returning to Vietnam. He made the case for peace to Federal and Pentagon officials, persuaded Martin Luther King Jr. to publicly oppose the Vietnam War, and so helped to galvanize the peace movement. The following year King nominated Hạnh for the Nobel Peace Prize.

When James returns, we are headed to one of Thích Nhất Hạnh’s public talks, “The Present Moment: Wisdom for Global Peace and Happiness” at the Sony Centre in Toronto.

Update: Unfortunately I came down with the flu this past week and was unable to go to the talk with James. He decided to invite his Mom, and I think she enjoyed herself very much 🙂

“The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.”


I have been curious about what it would be like to shoot a gun for a few years now.  James found this great deal on Groupon for an hour lesson at Silverdale Gun Club in West Lincoln, about an hour and a half away from Toronto.

Our instructor was a laid back guy, although he did keep mentioning that he wanted to get the hell out of there and go home for some beers!  He was very patient with us and gave us words of encouragement when we missed the targets 🙂

We shot with a .22 Caliber Firearm, 9 Millimeter Firearm and an AR15 rifle.  I think we both did quite well for our first time.  We’ve got the target sheets to prove it! It was definitely exhilarating and something fun to try out, but I can say that we will never have any interest in hunting actual animals, EVER!