Thursday, March 27, 2014

DECA Is A Star! (But you knew that already!)

Well, spring has almost sprung, and Pioneer is back for another season of exploring #DanforthEast. It's almost our 5th anniversary and to mark this milestone (and in the spirit of spring and renewal) it's time for a look back at where it all began.

TheGrid.TO wrote a lovely piece about DECA and it's urban renewal efforts. They have played a key role in making this a safer and more interesting place to live. It's worth reading, if only to get a glimpse of what our neighbourhood looked like when Timmy's at Shoppers was the only place to get (gross) coffee.

The story is here:

If you don't already read their blog, you should! It's over here at

Reading our first blog post five years ago was a real throw back: As you can see, nothing has changed. We still feel the same way. We heart Danforth East!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Interesting People: Culture Snap

Pioneer loves the Danforth East Arts Fair (DEAF) - and not just because we can shop for sparkly things or hand-crafted art pieces. We had the pleasure of meeting yet another interesting person in our fabric of life on Danforth East: one of the photographers exhibiting at DEAF13 this coming weekend, who just happens to live a stone's throw from Pioneer HQ. A front porch interview was in order!

Henry Vanderspek is the face behind Culture Snap Photography, and as you will see, his magical lens captures moments in time that are definitely a perfect fit for a gallery wall, Joni Mitchell's house (true story!) or your own. Here's a little bit about the man behind the curtain:

Q. You've captured some amazing photography from around the world. How did you get started behind the lens?

A. I grew up watching my father do a lot of travel photography and was always interested in it as a medium. I worked for World Vision, promoting youth advocacy and education, and travelled around East Africa for many years. There was a lot of great natural subject matter and I found myself taking photos for work more and more. I became sort of the unofficial official photographer on my team for awhile which was gratifying. As I explored photography further, I found my niche. I won a photography contest with a photo I took in Tanzania and that gave me a lot of confidence in my art. 

Q. What's your most recent photographic adventure?

A. I had the chance to travel to Uganda with Photographers Without Borders. I was documenting Raising Voices, a program that helps prevent violence against women and children. It was really an amazing experience to be part of. 

Q. We love the bicycle pedal photo. What was the story behind that?

A. This photo was taken in Rwanda and I just thought it was so touching to make the connection visually between a nation struggling and working hard to overcome some terrible history with this young man riding a bike emblazoned with the word Pheonix. It was a symbol of the future (and the importance of the bicycle to developing economies). 

Q. Can you talk about Joni Mitchell?

A. I loved the irony of that street photo. I tried to track down the street artist that made that sign, but no luck. Last year when Luminato invited Joni Mitchell to be a special guest, I contacted them and asked if this photo could be given to her somehow. They agreed, so I sent a framed photo to them. I didn't hear from them for awhile, but they eventually confirmed that yes, she had been personally given the photo. So who knows! I'm hoping that she's framed it and has it on a wall somewhere, but I'll never know. 

Q. Why do you love living on Danforth East? What brought you here? 

A. I love neighbourhoods with a sense of possibility. As time goes by, there are more and more bright spots popping up along the Danforth and it's exciting to watch the street scenes coming to life. I love cultural diversity and it's so evident that we are a "mosaic" here, with the Ethiopian and Moroccan restaurants and other ethnicities. There's a real sense of community and community support. 

Q. What's your favourite spot around here? 

A. Well, you can usually find me at Red Rocket or Caketown Cafe working on my photo editing. Or S. Walter Stewart library. Lots of peace and quiet there!

You can get your hands on your very own Henry Vanderspek at the Danforth East Arts Fair this weekend. He also takes orders via email and his website. The arts fair is happening Saturday and Sunday at East Lynn Park. Our advice is to get there early before the crowds scoop up all the treasures!

More information can be found at - or feel free to drool over their Pinterest page!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Saucy & Sassy

If you're anything like Pioneer and don't have a cottage (or campsite) to get away to for the long weekend, then it's time for a strategic plan of how we are all going to spend our long weekend on Danforth East.

Our first pick for your "cottage away from the cottage" experience is Jawny Bakers at St Clair & O'Connor. We blogged about their patio oasis and cottage charm last summer and have been regulars ever since. 

If you don't have children to worry about, a sunny afternoon on Sauce's new Courtyard patio will have you humming Oh When The Saints under your breath. It is definitely Pioneer's misfortune to have missed out on this gem almost all summer long. Owners Johnny & Michelle are New Orleans passionistas and have created a perfect Louisiana oasis (and with the humidity this weekend, it will almost feel like February in nu or-linz). We tried our best to get their secret hurricane recipe, but Johnny (who fancies a Pimms Cup on any given day) says the only secret is to put more booze in than juice. Hip hip Hooray! This coming long weekend, Michelle will be on the back patio making margaritas and blender drinks, so don't miss out. 

One thing synonymous with cottage country is quaint shops and browsing for antiques, both of which you can actually accomplish along Danforth East. We love LEN, first and foremost but Pioneer has also discovered (at long last!) the mini fashion district in our hood - east of McDonalds on the south side of Danforth (and even one new shop on the north side). Hours have been spent pouring over racks at pop-up shop In This Closet, which literally has some of the best vintage retail in the city. Although we didn't quite fit into the sassy Black Halo seductress dress, there was so much more to choose from. You can see it all on their Instagram page here. In This Closet, Cheap Thrills and (SALES!) are all open this weekend, so reacquant yourself with your wallet and support our high street.

On the antiques side of things - Treasure Land (2038 Danforth) has an odd assortment of kitsch and crap, but sometimes you can actually find buried treasure. Happy hunting!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Arts Fair Shopping

Gorgeous necklace by Pikay Creations.
Now that school is almost back in session, Pioneer has been spending the last few lazy days of summer getting into fall shopping mode. Of course the priority is kitting out the JPs (Junior Pioneers) with back to school duds, but sometimes we need to take a break from school uniforms and drool over some delicious local arts and crafts. Lucky for us, it's only a few weeks until the Danforth East Arts Fair (DEAF) on Sept 14 - 15 and we've already been scoping out our juicy finds in advance thanks to Pinterest! You can get your crafty fix here:

Don't forget to follow Pioneer on Pinterest here! Stay tuned for more #DEAF13 sneak peaks and artist previews.