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5 things to do this weekend: Hallelujah time, winter solstice celebration

Patricia D'Cunha | posted Saturday, Dec 20th, 2014

As our regular CityNews.ca series continues, we look at events happening in Toronto for a variety of ages and interests.

Dec. 19-21, 2014

Handel’s Messiah: Get swept up in the annual Toronto holiday tradition, featuring the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. The pinnacle moment of the concert, the well-known Hallelujah chorus, will make you leap for joy and warm even Scrooge’s heart. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St. Friday (8 p.m.), Saturday (8 p.m.), Sunday (3 p.m.). Prices: $38 to $105. tso.ca

Breakfast with Santa: With Christmas less than a week away, Santa and his crew are very busy, but they always have time for their fans. First up, fill your belly with Mrs. Claus’ scrumptious breakfast buffet that includes pancakes with maple syrup, scrambled eggs, shortbread cookies, and croissants. Then, enjoy story time with the elves, taffy rolling, decorating sweets with Mrs. Claus, and of course, a visit with Jolly Old St. Nick. Palais Royale, 1601 Lake Shore Blvd. W. Saturday and Sunday, 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Children 12 and under: $15; adults: $20. Free parking. palaisroyale.ca

Holiday movie classics: “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings,” one of George Bailey’s children says in the classic Frank Capra movie It’s a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed. Select Cineplex Odeon locations. Saturday, various showtimes.cineplex.com

Home Alone returns to this big screen in karaoke-style holiday quote-a-long, so feel free to yell out some of Kevin McCallister’s (a.k.a. Macaulay Culkin) memorable phrases like, “you guys give up yet? Or are you thirsty for more?” Bloor Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W. Friday, 9:30 p.m. $11, and get some goodies with a donation to their food drive in support of the Stop Community Food Centre. hotdocs.ca

Toronto Christmas Market: This is the last weekend for you to check out the Toronto Christmas Market, now in its fifth year. The market has a European flare with its cobbled walkways and a beer garden, but also embraces Canadiana with mouth-watering poutine and homemade fudge. Children can marvel at the life-sized gingerbread house, sing along with Santa’s elves, say hello to Santa, and catch performances next to the twinkling tree. Adults can sample some mulled wine or hot rum while warming up next to the fire. Distillery Historic District, 55 Mill St. Friday (noon to 9 p.m.), Saturday and Sunday (10 a.m. to 9 p.m.). Free admission. torontochristmasmarket.com

Kensington Market Winter Solstice: Usher in the winter solstice — the longest night of the year — with light as the season officially arrives at 6:03 p.m. ET on Sunday. Stroll through Kensington Market with handmade illuminated lanterns as you encounter giant puppets, watch shadow play theatrics, dance to eclectic music, and take in the dramatic fire finale in Alexandra Park at Bathurst and Dundas streets. The 25th annual event is hosting by the non-profit community group Red Pepper Spectacle Arts. Kensington Market, starts at Oxford and August streets. Sunday, 6:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Free admission.redpepperspectacle.wordpress.com

If you have a suggestion, email us at torontoweb@citynews.ca,or submit it online at CityNews.ca or 680News.com, or via our iPhone & iPad apps.

10 ways to make holiday baking easier

Kristen Eppich | posted Thursday, Dec 18th, 2014

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Holiday baking is wonderful. The nostalgia, the aroma, the sugar – it brings back memories and allows us to indulge in some of our favourite recipes. But who’s kidding who, the best thing about holiday baking is having it done – so we can enjoy the wares minus the mess and time.

Here are 10 quick tips to make your holiday baking a little friendlier, and relieve you of at least one sticky measuring spoon this season. Happy baking.

  1. Keep two sets of measuring spoons on hand. One for wet ingredients, one for dry.
  2. Measuring something sticky like molasses or honey? Lightly spray your measuring cup or spoon with cooking spray and it will slide right out.
  3. Eggs to cold? If your recipe calls for room temperature eggs, drop them (in their shell) into very warm water and let them sit for 5 minutes. Use immediately (do not return these to the fridge).
  4. Leave your butter out the night before. Defrosting butter in the microwave changes the composition of the butter and it won’t react the same way as naturally room temperature butter.
  5. Always bake on parchment paper. It saves cookies from sticking and time on clean-up.
  6. Making icebox cookies that need to be rolled and chilled? Cut the inner tube of a roll of paper towels in half lengthwise and rest the wrapped cylinders of dough inside. It will help them keep their round shape while the firm up in the fridge.
  7. If you want to shape cookies in advance, but bake off later in batches, freeze first on a tray. Once frozen, stack in an airtight container and keep frozen. Bake cookies from frozen.
  8. Buy disposable piping bags to make life easier for you and your kids when it comes to decorating sugar cookies. This allows you to have multiple colours on the go, and they can be rinsed out and reused.
  9. Use gel food colourings to tint icing. Gel colourings have less liquid so they don’t dilute your icing and they also have a more intense colour (so add sparingly).
  10. Know some basic substitutions such as these to save time running to and from the grocery store:
  • 1 cup cake flour = 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour + 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • Rice flour, potato flour and cornstarch can all be used interchangeably.
  • Buttermilk can be made by adding 1 tbsp lemon juice to 1 cup milk. Let sit for a few minutes until it curdles, then proceed.
  • Spelt flour can replace all-purpose flour 1:1

Connected City: Apps to help you get through the holidays

Winston Sih | posted Wednesday, Dec 17th, 2014

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Connected City

City digital media correspondent Winston Sih takes a look at two apps to help you get through the holidays.

Catch Connected City with Winston Sih on his weekly segment airing on CityNews: The 5.  View all previous segments by clicking here.

The year’s top YouTube stars

Adrian Lee | posted Tuesday, Dec 16th, 2014

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Is this the year the Internet found its soul? Some of 2014’s most viral videos had an eye on issues—from a woman filming her catcall-filled walk around New York, to Emma Watson’s stirring speech about feminism at the UN. One, First Kiss, a short film where 20 strangers lock lips, was both artful and sweet. Then again, that catcall walk spawned a number of spoof spin-offs (“5 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Jets fan”). And some of the year’s other biggest hits involved a man getting kicked in the head by a train engineer while taking a selfie, and a “devil baby” prank video. Honourable mentions: The Tonight Show’s edit of clips from news anchor Brian Williams so that he performed Rapper’s Delight; and Too Many Cooks, an absurdist swell of genre films and sitcom tropes plucked from intentioned obscurity that propelled scores of think pieces. Here’s some of the best videos from the year that was:

Schadenfreude is a powerful, addictive thing, and this video of a selfie-taker being kicked in the head by the driver of a passing train proves it, with its 35-million views.

A newscaster takes advantage of a break to let loose and dance to the viral-on-its-own remix of a quote from the rapper T.I.—to the dismay of his co-anchor.

An argument between three toddlers over how to precisely describe how much it had rained ended up poking more than 11-million people right in the heart.

The Tonight Show edits NBC newsmen Brian Williams and Lester Holt to rap the Sugarhill Gang’s seminal song—with respects due to Sugarhill Gang’s real-life Big Bank Hank, who passed away this year.

This trailer for an otherwise forgettable horror flick loosed an animatronic ‘devil baby’ in the streets of New York, ratcheting up a stunning 48-million views. But while New Yorkers’ terror is amusing, the video’s popularity can perhaps be exclusively explained by the unimpressed passerby in the video’s middle portion.

The message of “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” was powerful, but just as the enduring legacy of “S*** Girls Say” was its template for spin-offs of other niche categories, the video’s real success can be measured in the copycats it spawned. Some were equally stirring (“10 hours of walking in NYC as a woman in a hijab”); others were more jocular (“10 hours of walking in NYC as a Lamborghini”).

Good news: Emma Watson, refusing the typical dance that some female actresses feel the need to practice to avoid talking about feminism, made a speech to the United Nations that helped push it to the fore. Bad news: it earned her threats from men’s rights trolls on the controversial network 4chan.

It was never meant to live—it was intentionally consigned by absurdist cartoon purveyors Adult Swim to 4 a.m. infomercials—but we’re better off that someone loaded the catchy Too Many Cooks up to Youtube for the masses to relish. Ends up too many cooks don’t spoil the broth, after all.

Lauren Hill, a freshman player on Mount St. Joseph’s basketball team who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, lays in the game’s opening basket—to the roar of another school’s crowd.

More from the sports file: five days before Isaiah Austin was expected to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft, his draft physicals found a genetic disease that would immediately end his career, before it could even begin. So on draft day, the league commissioner Adam Silver decided he needed to right that cosmic wrong.

Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe is a wizard after all—at rapping, at least.

Viral videos are sometimes all about luck. This pilot lost the camera he had attached to his plane and it plummets, somehow, landing intact and face-up—where it is greeted by a confused yet hungry pig.

On the other hand, virality can also require the extreme, delicate precision needed to hand-craft tiny burritos to feed to a hamster.Either way, this is adorable.

John Oliver’s takedown of net neutrality may not have received as many eyeballs as most of the clips on this list, but the fact that a video about deeply wonkish material got 7-million views—and inspired one legislator to actually deny the video’s claim that he was a dingo—means it well-earned its spot.

Chris Picco was set to have a child with his wife Ashley. But then Ashley died suddenly during childbirth, and his son, Lennon, had to bedelivered prematurely by C-section. Knowing that he would likely pass away too, Chris sang the Beatles’ mournful tune. Lennon died the next day.

Richard Dunn, trapped alone in the Las Vegas airport, filmed a creative music video for Celine Dion’s All By Myself—earning more than 16-million views and a plaudit from Celine herself.

All by myself from Richard Dunn on Vimeo.

With remarkably advanced moves, this plump baby from Korea captured more than 13-million hearts. (The one on the left gives a valiant effort, also.)

This artful short film of 20 strangers kissing ended up being an ad for a clothing line—but wasn’t a less cynical time when we simply believed in the pure spontaneity of 20 beautiful people making out?

Hockey Night in Canada Cheat Sheet: Dec. 20

Jeff Simmons | posted Saturday, Dec 20th, 2014

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his week, Hockey Night Canada has a great lineup in store for you.

There are four games being shown across the country, which include five Canadian teams.

In the Cheat Sheet each week, we’ll provide everything you need to know for Hockey Night in Canada:

Note: All games below are listed in Eastern time.

THE 7 P.M. GAMES:

Ottawa Senators vs. Montreal Canadiens 
Channel: City
Broadcast crew: Paul Romanuk, Garry Galley
Game notes: Montreal has won its last three games against Ottawa…Habs defenceman P.K. Subban has 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 19 career games vs. Senators…Senators goalie Craig Anderson is 2-1-0 with a .931 save percentage in his last three starts.

Philadelphia Flyers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs 
Channel: CBC
Broadcast crew: Jim Hughson, Craig Simpson, Glenn Healy
Game notes: Toronto is 2-5-1 in their last eight home games against Philadelphia…Claude Giroux has 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) in 20 career games vs. Toronto…The Leafs are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games.

Also on Rogers: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. New York Islanders (FX)

THE 10 P.M. GAME:

Calgary Flames vs. Vancouver Canucks 
Channel: CBC
Broadcast crew: Dave Randorf, Mike Johnson
Game notes: Vancouver has won their last seven home games against the Flames…Calgary goalie Jonas Hiller has lost in each of his last five starts…Ryan Miller has a career .901 save percentage in five games against Calgary.

Cineplex postpones ‘The Interview’ screenings in Canada amid hacker threat

BT Toronto | posted Wednesday, Dec 17th, 2014

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Those looking to take in the upcoming Seth Rogen and James Franco satire, The Interview, will have to wait a little longer.

Cineplex Entertainment announced on Wednesday that it would be postponing the Canadian screenings of the film after hackers threatened 9/11-like attacks.

“Cineplex takes seriously its commitment to the freedom of artistic expression, but we want to reassure our guests and staff that their safety and security is our number one priority,” the company says in a release. “We look forward to a time when this situation is resolved and those responsible are apprehended.”

The film about the assassination of North Korean President Kim Jong-un was scheduled to be released nationwide on Dec. 25, with Toronto’s premiere screening scheduled for Thursday at the Scotiabank Theatre.

A representative for Sony Communication told CityNews they are unsure right now if there will be future screenings of the film.

The movie’s New York premiere was also cancelled Wednesday due to the threats.

The hackers, who said they were also responsible for seizing control of Sony Corp.’s computer system last month, have warned people to stay away from cinemas showing the film and darkly reminded moviegoers of the Sept. 11 hijacked plane attacks on the United States in 2001.

“We recommend you to keep yourself distant from the places at that time,” the hackers wrote.

“(If your house is nearby, you’d better leave.)”

Sony executives had earlier told theatre owners it would not pull the film but added they would not object if they decided to cancel screenings, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Police departments in Los Angeles and New York said they were taking the warning seriously.

With files from Reuters

Sydney siege ends after heavily-armed police descend on cafe

BT Toronto | posted Monday, Dec 15th, 2014

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The hostage-taking situation in Australia is over after heavily-armed police descended on the Sydney cafe where an unknown number of people were held for more than 16 hours, New South Wales police said via Twitter.

There are media reports two people died in the confrontation. Those reports have not been confirmed.

Police moved in after five or six more hostages were seen fleeing the building early Tuesday morning.

Citing police sources, Australian media outlets have identified the gunman as Man Haron Monis.

Monis, 50, is an Iranian refugee and self-styled religious leader.

He is known to police and has been charged with being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife and with sexual assault on a young woman who sought his spiritual services.

Demands

Amid the crisis, hundreds of police officers, some of them armed with sniper rifles, shut down a usually bustling area in Australia’s most populous city.

Chilling images from local media showed people, believed to be hostages, with their hands pressed against the glass of the Lindt Chocolate Cafe in Sydney’s central business district.

Footage showed them holding up a black flag with Arabic writing on it that reads: “There is no God but God and Mohammed is the prophet of God.” That flag was different from the one used by the terrorist group ISIL.

During the standoff, the gunman was said to be demanding an ISIL flag and a phone call with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

The reported demands emerged after five hostages managed to flee the building on Monday night.

The gunman’s requests were made through hostages who contacted several media organizations, CNN affiliate Sky News Australia reported. Police said they were aware of the reports but declined to confirm what demands had been made.

Profoundly shocking

After hours of tension and uncertainty, three people were seen sprinting out of the cafe and into a group of police officers.

Later two women dashed out of the cafe and along the street to the waiting police.

“Those people are now being assessed to ensure that their health is OK and then police will also speak to them,” said New South Wales Police Deputy Commissioner Catherine Burn. She said police negotiators are in touch with the hostage taker.

Chris Reason, a correspondent for CNN affiliate Seven Network, was allowed to return to the broadcaster’s evacuated offices near the cafe.

He said he could see the gunman pacing past the windows, describing him as unshaven, wearing a white shirt and black cap and carrying a shotgun.

Following the escape of some of the hostages, Reason said the gunman became “extremely agitated” when he realized what had happened and “started screaming orders” at the remaining hostages.

Unverified videos surface on YouTube

Unverified videos surfaced on YouTube that appeared to show some of the hostages repeating the suspect’s apparent demands to the camera.

The apparent hostages in the video claimed that there are bombs around Martin Place and also at Circular Quay, a harbour that serves as a major transport and tourism hub that includes a railway station. If the demands were met, the people claimed in the video, the bombs would not be ignited.

The people in the unverified videos are standing in front of a Lindt poster. There is also someone standing behind them who is holding up an Islamic flag with his or her face covered.

The original posts have been deleted from YouTube and there are reports that the police requested their removal.

Muslim leaders condemn hostage taking

The writing on the flag in the window stoked fears that the crisis in Sydney could be linked to Islamic extremists. Australia, which is part of the international coalition fighting ISIS in the Middle East, said in September that it had foiled a plot by Islamic militants to carry out a public execution.

Muslim leaders in Australia condemned the hostage taking, calling it “a criminal act.”

“Such actions are denounced in part and in whole in Islam,” the Grand Mufti of Australia and the Australian National Imams Council said in a statement on Facebook.

‘That could be me’

The hostages appeared to include staff and customers who were taken captive as commuters were heading to work on Monday morning in the Martin Place area, where big institutions like the Reserve Bank of Australia are located.

One employee of the cafe who was due to work a later shift Monday said she was deeply shaken when she saw footage of some of her colleagues pressed against the window.

“That could be me, right there, standing at that window, standing there, holding that flag, being told not to move,” Kathryn Chee, 25, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. “It’s just horrifying.”

Chris Kenny, an editor at The Australian newspaper, said he was at the cafe Monday morning. He left shortly before the siege started.

“As police quickly swarmed and cleared the area, I turned to see a man against the window, facing out with his hands raised,” he wrote in his account of the incident. “At first I was relieved thinking this was the gunman responding to police — but soon the awful realization the customers were being forced against the windows.”

Bustling area eerily quiet

Before some of the hostages fled, Seven Network reported that at least 13 people were being held at the cafe, but police declined to say how many were in there, citing operational reasons. Burn said it was fewer than 30.

Police barricaded off streets and evacuated buildings near the cafe, bringing an eerie quiet to a district typically buzzing with pedestrians and vehicles.

The Martin Place train station was shut down, according to police. They urged people to stay away from the area, but some local office workers gathered at the scene to try to find out what was going on.

The buildings evacuated included the U.S. Consulate General, spokeswoman Alicia Edwards said. All personnel have been accounted for, although it’s not known whether there are any U.S. citizens among the hostages. U.S. President Barack Obama has been briefed on the situation.

The company that runs the cafe, Lindt Chocolate Cafe Australia, said it was “deeply concerned over this serious incident and our thoughts and prayers are with the staff and customers involved and all their friends and families.”

With files from The Associated Press; Jethro Mullen and Anna Coren (CNN)

Week of Dec. 15, 2014

BT Toronto | posted Sunday, Dec 14th, 2014

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Coming up on Breakfast Television this week:

On Monday, Jenn Valentyne is LIVE in Jamaica and will bring you the sights and sounds to make you want to escape winter!

Jersey Boys is back! They’ll be in studio on Wednesday to chat about their latest production, coming to Mirvish.

And to end off the week, join the fun at the annual BT Christmas Party Friday, Dec. 19 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto hotel lobby from 5:30 to 9 a.m. If you want to join us bright and early on the 19th, you can book a room at the Sheraton on the night of the 18th and wear your pajamas to the party for our Spirit of the Season rate starting at $139/night! More details here.

Be sure to watch BT weekdays 5:30 to 9 a.m. on City, right here at BTtoronto.ca, or on our Breakfast Television mobile app for iOS and Android!

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