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December 2016

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Top holiday movies this Christmas season

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! At least, that’s what I said back in October when holiday movies started pouring out on every single television channel. These much-loved movies are a sure sign that Christmas is on its way. While some may find this irritating, for many families, these movies are an important tradition. When you have young kids, it is exciting to choose which of these movies to watch while enjoying a warm cup of hot cocoa and a few Christmas cookies. If you are looking to indulge in a holiday movie binge, here are the best flicks to watch on a frosty winter day.

It's_A_Wonderful_Life
From It’s a Wonderful Life.

Classics

My all-time favourite Christmas movie is ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. It is an absolute classic (filmed in 1946) and encapsulates all the important themes of family, giving, and the importance of community. It has a darker twist to it as well, which I appreciate because it isn’t cheesy like so many Christmas movies. “The Holiday Inn” is another well-loved movie from 1942 and is a great choice for Christmas music lovers. It is replete with dancing and singing, and of course has a classic romantic tale of love and betrayal to boot. ‘The Christmas Carol’ (1951 version) is a blast from the past and is one of the greatest versions of the classic tale by Charles Dickens. Alastair Sim’s laugh at the end of the film will make you smile for at least the next 24 hours.

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From the Grinch who stole Christmas.

For the kids

There are so many amazing kids’ Christmas films to binge on and of course, it all begins with “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” (the original of course made in 1966). From the music score to the animation, this movie is one of the best holiday films ever made. The Grinch is such an ugly creature, but the cuteness of Cindy Lou Who overrides the Christmas grouch with a heart three sizes too small. “Polar Express” is a newer classic, but seeing Tom Hanks in animation is well worth it. It is a very creative film, with original music and a holiday message to never stop believing! And of course, there is “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”,  a mix between a classic and a must-have kid’s film. There is something instantly soothing about the voice of Rudolph and the sound his red nose makes when it lights up.

diesanta
From Die Hard.

A little more bad-ass

If you want to watch a more rebellious Christmas film with friends or your hubby, then “Die Hard” is the way to go. It is a classic action flick conveniently set at Christmas and provides a hilarious twist to the typical holiday themes of sharing and caring. It is a must-watch, kudos to the 80’s for cheesy movies. “Edward Scissorhands” is also a contender for a more avant-garde holiday movie because it is set in the winter season. One of my favourite movie scenes of all time is when Winona Rider spins in circles as Edward Scissorhands (Johnny Depp) uses his hands to make a beautiful creation.

The-Holiday-Kate-Winslet-Jack-Black
From The Holiday.

Can’t forget the chick flicks!

Finally, the romantic comedies cannot be forgotten! “The Holiday” is a great Christmas film that defines love across borders and it is easy on the mind with a great cast. “Four Christmases” is another fun, newer movie for women everywhere. Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughan play a hilarious couple that are forced to go to their families’ Christmas get togethers. Finally, the best chick-flick for the holidays is definitely “Love Actually”. It is one of my all-time favourite Christmas comedies and it will have you laughing, crying, and contemplating life all in a couple of hours.

Whether it be a classic film, a funny chick-flick, a cute kid’s movie or an action movie, enjoy your Christmas holidays by being lazy and watching fun movies (it will be well-worth it). I for one cannot wait to relax, enjoy the holidays and spend time with my family and the movie channel.

What is your favourite holiday movie? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below!

What’s the deal with Toronto’s revenue tools?

The City of Toronto is facing a budgeting crisis with over $91 million worth of funds to find by City Council. Several revenue tools were presented by city manager, Peter Wallace in an effort to find money to fill the gaps and pay for all of the projects that are much-needed in Toronto.

Terms like ‘property tax’, ‘municipal land transfer tax’, ‘parking levy’, and ‘expressway tolls’ , are being thrown around like crazy, and it is easy to get lost in the world of financial terms. Understanding the inner-workings of the various revenue tools is the best way to decide which financial tools should be adopted by the city and which of them should be discarded. That’s why Women’s Post has created this guide, to help our readers understand the ins and outs of the revenue tools presented in the executive committee, and what terms will be flying around next week at city council.

Property Tax

Property tax is a commonly used revenue tool and is most often brought up in city council. A property tax is a levy on a property the owner is required to pay. It is set by the governing authority of any given area, which in this case is the municipality of Toronto. Property taxes in Toronto are a hotly contested issue because Toronto property tax rates are the only metropolitan tax that is lower than the surrounding area, the GTHA, and politicians don’t want to raise them. The city has proposed a two per cent property tax hike, but Toronto Mayor John Tory vows to raise the property tax no higher than half a per cent. Instead he is pushing for alternatives instead of pushing more tax on property owners.

Municipal Land Transfer Tax

Municipal land transfer tax has been a popular option for Toronto in the last year and helped keep the property tax inflation rate at bay in last year’s budget. The municipal land transfer tax is a fee that is paid by the person who purchases the home to the municipality that is charging it. There are rebates for first-time home buyers and other jurisdictions, such as Vancouver, have imposed a foreign land transfer tax to help lower inflation in the real estate market. It is a useful tool, but was used in the 2016 budget so may not be a viable option when looking at other options for 2017. City Council will discuss harmonizing the Ontario land transfer tax with the municipal option, which would require legislative changes but would streamline the process in the long-run.

Personal Vehicle Tax

The personal vehicle tax has been a revenue tool that was presented in the past before at City Council and was not a popular option. Council will consider the re-introduction to tax $120 per vehicle annually, but Tory has stated he is not a big fan of this option. The rejection of the personal vehicle tax has angered environmental groups who want to see people choosing to drive vehicles in the city pay extra taxes. The personal vehicle tax is also an easy and quick tax to implement because it doesn’t require any extra infrastructure.

Hotel Tax

The hotel tax revenue tool is being hotly contested by the tourism and hotel industry, which has already seen slowed growth due to the increasing popularity of air bnbs and other short-term stays. By placing an extra tax on the hotel industry, it may put more pressure on hotels to pay when they can’t afford to do so. Tory rebutted in the executive committee though that the annual subsidy supplied to hotels would help pay for the hotel tax if it were approved. This revenue tool would require provincial legislative and regulatory reforms, and is not a popular option in regards to fairness, efficiency, and is low in revenue quality according to Wallace’s presentation.

Expressway Tolls

Expressway tolls are the newest revenue tool to be introduced by Mayor Tory and is a popular option. The expressway tolls would require vehicles to pay a fee when they use the Don Valley Parkway and the Gardiner Expressway. If the city charged $2 per trip, the annual revenue would be $166 million per year. The start-up cost to build the expressway tolls would be an estimated $100-$150 million and have ongoing operational costs of $50 to $60 million. The expressway tolls would require provincial legislative changes, but could be implemented in the 2017 budget. City Council will be focusing heavily on tolls next week.

There are many other revenue tools that were presented including an alcohol beverage tax, a parking levy, a third party sign tax, graduated residential property taxes, and a municipal sales tax. From the climate of the executive committee meeting, it would be surprising to see any of these options be approved. They have not been given the same amount of attention as the hotel tax and expressway tolls. A graduated residential property tax and a municipal sales tax in particular require provincial legislation changes and were listed by Wallace as aspirational changes to be further discussed in 2018.

In order to fully grasp the many revenue tool terms that will fly around at City Council next week, focus on the most important options that are available. Also remember to bring popcorn. Even though discussing financial tools can be a bit of a bore, City Council is sure to get lively when discussing the various revenue tools that were presented for debate.

The Party Wall: a refreshing take on humanity and relationships

I had very few expectations when I first opened The Party Wall by Catherine Leroux (translated from French by Lazer Lederhendler). The summary on the back cover looked a bit jumbled — four different stories, all involving pairs of people that may never meet. The plots appeared a bit confusing and illogical, and I couldn’t figure out how the author was going to make this work as one, singular novel.

But, I was pleasantly surprised.

Leroux is able to intertwine and shift between numerous storylines seamlessly. Her writing is delicate, almost lyrical, yet not overbearing. It’s themes touch on the very foundations of humanity, relationships, and above all else, love. But not in a way the reader expects.

In fact, there was little about The Party Wall that was predictable, which is what made it such a refreshing read. The novel follows the separate stories of four pairs.

Monette and Angie are two young sisters taking a walk, marvelling at the small things they witness along their way, unaware of the shocking end their story may have. Madeleine and Édouard are mother and son, or are they? Madeleine learns at the worst possible moment that she may not be the biological mother of the child she gave birth to. Ariel and Marie are husband and wife in a post-apocalyptic future in which Canada has a labour party and Saskatchewan is a barren wasteland. The power-couple come to a startling realization about their shared past. And finally, Simon and Carmen are siblings that watch as their mother passes away, all the while holding a deep secret about their background that changes the essence of their relationship.

Each story redefines what it means to be a family — the identity that unifies us or breaks us apart. Not all of the stories have happy endings, but each and every one makes the reader stop and think about the universal truths of humanity. Human beings are full of flaws and regrets; yet also the ability to see good in those who can’t see it in themselves.

What truly captivated me was Leroux’s vivid imagery and startling metaphors. The characters were all wonderfully developed and very real. Even the plot line that exists in a futuristic state is all-too revealing of the impending consequences of North American indulgence.

There are very few authors capable of jumping between four separate storylines while still maintaining the readers interest. The passion and truth radiating from this piece of fiction was compelling and genuine, which leads to my final recommendation: The Party Wall is a must-read for 2016-17.

The Party Wall is shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and was the winner of both the Governor General’s Literary Awards for translation and the France-Quebec Prize.

Holiday baking: peppermint skor bark

Tis’ the season to be jolly…and that’s exactly what holiday baking is all about! For the next month (or two!), Women’s Post will be featuring our favourite holiday recipes. First of all, it gives us an excuse to bake — which is always necessary during the holiday season — and second of all, it allows us to share our traditions and hear yours!

Enjoy!

*Note: Women’s Post does not claim that any of these recipes will be healthy or good for you. We can, however, claim they will make your soul happy.

Peppermint Skor Bark

My friends and I call this the “crack” of desserts. You can’t just have one. They taste similar to skor bars — essentially they are chocolatey, sugary delights. I tend to think they are worth the calories. They are also incredibly easy to make, and require very few ingredients.

What you’ll need:

1 cup of butter

1 cup of brown sugar

24 salted soda crackers

chocolate chips (about 1 cup)

candy canes

Preheat the oven at 350.

Start by grabbing a handful of candy canes and placing them unwrapped inside a ziplock bag. Use a rolling pin or a hammer to break the candy canes into small pieces. Try to get a variety of sizes, including a fine powder to provide a garnishing effect. Be careful when doing this. It will be a loud exercise and may disrupt kids or pets.

Candy Crush: Don’t forget to take the wrappers off before mashing!

After you are done with the candy canes, put them aside. Find a sheet bake pan or a cookie sheet (depends on how steady your hands are, I prefer the bake pan) and layer it with parchment paper. This is really important, or else you won’t be able to get your skor bar off the pan. Layer your soda crackers evenly on the pan.

Grab a pot and melt your butter. Once melted, stir in the sugar and boil for two minutes until it creates a thick caramel sauce. Pour the sauce on top of the soda crackers and place in the oven for five minutes or so. Remove from the oven and cover the dessert with chocolate chips.

The soda crackers may move around during cooking. Don’t worry about it!

Place back in the oven for a minute or two until the chocolate chips are melted. Using a spatula, spread the chocolate around until it completely covers the dessert. At this point, take your crushed candy cane and sprinkle it on top of the melted chocolate. Place in the fridge or freezer for over an hour before breaking the bark into pieces.

This recipe is great because you can change up the toppings to create a few fun recipes. Try pretzels for a saltier taste or m&ms for a fun kid-friendly treat.

If its not crunchy, put it back in the freezer!

 

What are your favourite holiday recipes? Let us know in the comments below!

Ontario is gearing up for groundbreaking cap and trade project

Ontario has been working hard to prepare for cap and trade, an environmental initiative that will put a cap on greenhouse emissions and help high polluters to lower their carbon levels.

The program will lower greenhouse gas emissions substantially and will help Ontario reach its climate goals to 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and up to 80 per cent by 2050. The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change has been ramping up in preparation of the ground-breaking environmental program in Ontario, with three officers of the legislature releasing detailed reports on the cap and trade program over the last few weeks. This included the Environmental Commissioner on Nov. 22, the Financial Accountability Officer on Nov. 23, and the Auditor General on Nov. 30. The Ontario government is clearly demonstrating transparency and public awareness of the many positive aspects that involve the cap and trade program.

On Nov. 16, the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change Glen Murray also met with Quebec Premier Philip Couillard and Matt Rodriquez, Secretary for Environmental Protection for California, at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Marrakech, Morocco. The three leaders discussed their plan to link the cap and trade programs across international boundaries. Ontario plans to link the cap and trade program to Quebec and California by 2018, which will help the new green economy flourish with increased opportunities for competition. Nova Scotia recently announced it is planning to start a cap and trade program as well.

The Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Dianne Saxe, mentioned the partnership in her report and commends its positive aspects: “The key purpose of linking is to reduce compliance costs for Ontario emitters. Linking reduces compliance costs in two main ways: Creating a bigger, more liquid market for allowances; and giving Ontario emitters access to lower cost allowances from other jurisdictions.”

Cap and trade is a a large undertaking for Ontario, but increasingly crucial in our climate-based economy. The program forces large polluters to cut down on greenhouse gases or contribute to provincial revenue through carbon credits. Alternatively, if a company lowers their emissions, they can make money by selling their extra credits. The program is expected to make $478 million in its first year, and will generate 1.8 to 1.9 billion in the following years until December 2020. The funds will be directed towards green initiatives such as solar power, energy conservation methods, and battery storage. Either way, both initiatives help the ‘green’ agenda because either a high polluter will help fund green projects or they will lower their carbon emissions.

Cap and trade program will be activated in January 2017.

The Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change is leading the way on the climate change agenda, and it is exciting to imagine the significant impact that cap and trade will have on greenhouse emissions in the province.

Viola Desmond to be on Canadian $10 bill

Civil rights activist Viola Desmond will be the first woman, other than the queen, to be featured on a Canadian bank note.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau and the Bank of Canada announced the decision on Dec. 8. Desmond was chosen from a list of five finalists, who were chosen from 461 candidates.

“Today is about recognizing the incalculable contribution that all women have had and continue to have in shaping Canada’s story. Viola Desmond’s own story reminds all of us that big change can start with moments of dignity and bravery,” said Minister Morneau in a statement. “She represents courage, strength and determination—qualities we should all aspire to every day.”

Viola Desmond is often described as Canada’s Rosa Parks. A thriving Nova Scotia businesswoman in the 1930s-40s, she travelled to Montreal, New York, and New Jersey so that she could get her diploma in beauty and hairdressing. She established the Desmond School of Beauty Culture, a school that brought students together from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Quebec.

One day, as she was travelling for work, her car broke down in New Glasgow. She decided to take in a movie at the Roseland Theatre while waiting for repairs. She took her ticket and then went to sit down on the main floor of the theatre; however, she was told her ticket only provided access to the balcony. When she went to exchange ticket, she was told that African-Canadians were only permitted to sit on the balcony — the main floor was reserved for white patrons.

She decided to sit on the main floor anyways. When asked to move, she refused. She was dragged out of the theatre by police and held overnight in jail without being advised of her rights. She was charged and convicted of defrauding the Government of Nova Scotia (tax for ground floor and balcony seats differed by one cent) She was also fined $20.

Desmond decided to fight the charges and raise awareness about segregation in Canada. Ultimately, she failed to have her conviction overturned, but she did set a fire under the Black community in Nova Scotia and became an inspiration for change across the country.

Desmond died in 1965. She received a posthumous pardon from the Nova Scotia government in April 2010. She was also featured in Canada’s Heritage Minutes.

Desmond is a wonderful choice for the $10 bank note — her courage and dedication to civil rights is something to be celebrated. And Women’s Post is equally ecstatic that this new face is a woman, AND a woman of colour at that!

This change is part of a broader attempt by the Bank of Canada to integrate themes of social justice into their notes. The next $5 bank note will feature a different Canadian, and Sir. John A Macdonald and Sir Wilfrid Laurier will be moved to the higher bills. The Queen will keep her $20 bill.

Other finalists included Mohawk poet Emily Pauline Johnson, Olympic gold medalist Bobbie Rosenfeld, journalist and suffragette Idola Saint-Jean, and Canada’s first female engineer Elsie MacGill.

The new bills will enter circulation in 2018.

Woman of the Week: Miriam Verburg

Do you remember those teenage years — all of the confusion, the expectations, and the social awkwardness?

That’s one of the reasons why Miriam Verburg helped to create the LongStory Game, a dating sim, choose-your-own-adventure type game that helps pre-teens and teenagers learn the ins-and-outs of dating. Users get to pick a character —boy, girl, or trans — and must solve a mystery while navigating social scenarios. Some examples include, bullying, backstabbing friends, alienation and immigration, and experimentation with their own sexuality.

“I made it as a response to other dating sims, which follow boring storylines – you buy enough nice clothing and people will like you,” Verburg said. “LongStory is less appearance based and more ‘if I was 13 playing a game about relationships, what would I want to practice doing’.”

Verburg is modest to a fault. She is a self-affirmed feminist who wants to be a force of change and social good, but would rather work behind the scenes than in front of a camera.  She considers some aspects of business like advertising and monetization a challenge, as she wants her work to retain it’s authenticity and accessibility — something many other businesses can’t claim.

Verburg became interested in technology at a young age. Her father worked for the Bloorview Macmillan Centre in Toronto as a researcher, developing rehabilitation programs for kids. He often brought home weird-looking laptops and would let the kids play with them. Verburg caught the creative bug, and studied art in school, primarily print-making and digitization.

After graduating, she worked at Studio XX, an “explicitly feminist art studio” in Montreal, where self-taught women in technology could teach others. After a while, her interests changed to web development. She completed her Master’s in Communications and Media Studies at Concordia and got a job teaching kids digital literacy at a library in Montreal, something that inspired her to continue to work with kids and technology.

While doing all of this, Verburg started her own website development company with some friends called 3scoDesign, which focused on helping non-profits design and integrate their digital footprints. Verburg has maintained that entrepreneurial spirit and is now the founder and CEO of Bloom Digital Media, a “boutique gaming company” that specializes in user experience and project management.

LongStory launched two years ago through Bloom Digital Media and it’s quite the success. Verburg’s target audience at the beginning was young girls; she wanted to create a game that taught consent and allowed girls to experiment with their desires.

“It was 2012 — Rehtaeh Parsons and Amanda Todd — I found those stories sad and surprising,” she said. “It seemed to me, as a teenager, I was pretty convinced that the dating world was not constructed in a way girls can experience themselves fully with power and freedom.”

LongStory has since grown into a phenomenon that transcends gender, a game that appeals to young people across the board. Users can choose a character that accurately represents how they choose to be identified — “he”, “she”, or “they” — and can try things they may be embarrassed to try in public.  The challenge, Verburg says, is to keep the game authentic and available, so that teenagers are comfortable using it and parents don’t mind them doing so.

“There has been lots of pressure to make this educational and put it in schools, which is something I’ve resisted,” she said. Teenagers see devices as a place where they can be free to be themselves, and if you introduce it into classrooms, that whole idea changes.

Her team is also made up of an equal number of men and women — something Verburg says should be the norm no matter the company.

“The team is fairly evenly split and we also try to have a lot of LGBTQ members to represent that idea authentically,” she says. “People say it’s hard to have diversity in a company, but it’s not.”

One of the things Verburg hopes will change is the perception issue regarding male-dominated industries like hers. People say that more women should be involved in gaming or web development, but they don’t actually speak with women to find out what kind of games they would be interested in. That’s something Verburg has actively been trying to change.

“We spoke with a lot of girls during market research,” she said. “I want to explore how to create a community around that idea of gaming – how to help [girls] find better games and enjoy the experience more. There is such a strong community around building games and it makes me sad to see that if you ask girls if they want to get involved, they say ‘it’s still not meant for me’.”

Verburg was also involved with Dames Making Games, a not-for-profit feminist organization that runs events and programs for “women, non-binary, gender nonconforming, trans and queer folks interested in games.”  When she isn’t working or involved in the gaming community, Verburg enjoys doing circuit training, going for a walk outdoors, or playing a board game — anything that doesn’t involve analytical thinking.

Season two of LongStory was released a few months ago, and Verburg is excited to see where it will lead. “It’s like an Archie comic,” she said. “It can only go on.”

What’s the best way to ask for a raise?

You’ve worked at a company for a few years, but nothing has changed. You’ve put in a lot of hard work, led very successful projects, and have done put in quite a bit of overtime. But, you are still living off of the same entry-level salary you were given when you started the job. Sometimes, it takes a while to receive more than verbal praise. It could be the crappy economy preventing your boss from handing out bonuses or giving annual raises, but if you don’t ask, you’ll never find out!

Asking for more money is daunting. And, for some reason, women just aren’t doing it. Women in Canada still make 72 cents to a man’s dollar, and that wage gap doesn’t appear to be dropping. I’m not sure if it’s because, as women, we are more calculative and respectful of our employers or if our employers are simply not giving women enough money. Either way, it sucks and it’s time to stand up and ask for that raise you’ve been thinking about for months.

Still worried? Don’t worry, Women’s Post has you covered. Here’s what you need to know:

Timing is everything: No, the right time to discuss salary is not when you are out to lunch with colleagues or riding an elevator with your boss. It’s important to make this request in a professional manner. Ask for a meeting with your boss and be honest about what the conversation is about. Say you want to sit down to discuss your salary and your future at the company. Also consider when raises are typically given at your company. Generally, employees are given a yearly review; however, by that point, it is often too late to ask for a raise as the books have been finalized. Try to meet with your boss a month or two beforehand.

Also, note whether your colleagues have been laid off or if there is a frugal atmosphere in the office. If your boss is always making comments about loss of revenue or client reductions, the company may not be in a place to give you a raise. Better to wait until the company is thriving.

Know why you deserve it: Just because you’ve been working at the same place for a year, it doesn’t entitle you to a raise. Come prepared with a list of your accomplishments and the new responsibilities you’ve taken on since you’ve started working with the company. Make sure to mention if business has gone up or if a project has been particularly successful. If you work in a large company, your boss may not actually realize you’ve been doing more than indicated in original job description.

Try not to compare your work to that of your colleagues. Remember that you are talking about yourself, and there is no need to say that you did more work than Mark on a project or absorbed some of his workload. Just be honest about your contributions and keep everyone else out of it.

Do your research: How much are you making right now and how much do you want to be making? These are important things to decide before heading into the office, just in case your boss throws it to you and asks what you have in mind. While it’s important to calculate your worth, it’s equally important not to overreach. Find out what others are making in similar positions in other companies, and what your new responsibilities mean. Are you doing the job of two employees? Are you doing the work of a manager rather than an entry-level employee? Make your “ask” reasonable, and be prepared to negotiate and compromise if your boss can’t accommodate your request.

Be polite and confident: Confidence is key. You need to make your boss believe you deserve this raise. Practice your pitch a few times in the mirror before the meeting, and make sure to make eye contact. Speak slowly and try not to let your voice waver (which I know can be difficult, as the issue of money naturally makes everyone nervous.) At the same time, don’t offer your boss an ultimatum, at least not unless he or she is being incredibly disrespectful. It’s important that you come across as a professional. If your boss does say no to a salary raise, ask why. It may just be an issue of funding. If that’s the case, ask if you can revisit the topic in six months time (or even the following year) to see if the situation has changed. This shows that you are willing to be accommodating to the needs of the company, but are not willing to just let the issue go. If the answer is a little more superficial, be prepared to come up with polite rebuttals about the time and effort you put into the job.

If the answer is still no, then take the loss — for now. And maybe start looking for a better place of employment.

What did you say to your boss when you asked for a raise? Let us know in the comments below!

How to prepare the perfect elevator pitch

Have an idea, project, or job you want to pitch to your boss? The best way to do that is in an elevator pitch.

Being able to say what you mean confidentially can take you a long way in the business world. Finding a way to do that in a timely fashion is a whole other matter. An elevator pitch is a brief speech that is generally under two minutes. It is meant to spark interest in you, your idea, and project or product. It can be hard, to take your big idea and sizzle it down into a two-minute pitch. You need to make it exciting and interesting enough that your boss takes interest of your idea, but detailed enough that he/she knows you have the information to make it work. Luckily, Women’s Post has you covered. Here are some tips for that perfect elevator pitch:

Write it out

Block off an hour of your time and write out everything you know about your project or idea. Getting things down on paper will help you focus your argument and find the most salient and relevant points about your concept. This will create the blueprint for the elevator pitch and will help to separate the important information from the useless facts that aren’t needed.

Find the Hook

Once the information is laid out on paper, find the hook, which is otherwise known as the most interesting part of the idea. It should be the part of your blueprint that makes your heart beat fast and makes you feel excited about the project at hand. The hook is your leading statement because it will invoke a sense of confidence and excitement when you say it. From there, you can describe the proposal in a concise and timely manner.

Present a problem and solution

Once you have presented your idea, outline the problem and solution that you are looking to solve with your unique idea. This can be done in a few sentences and will demonstrate that your idea is relevant and important. It also induces a sense of urgency to your pitch because it demonstrates that there is a problem that needs to be solved in the immediate future.

Here is example of problem-solution based thinking in action: Say I approached my boss and said I wanted to develop an app that told people where available parking was located in each neighbourhood. I would then follow to say that there are no apps that currently that tell people where available parking is, causing frustration, gridlock and even accidents while people drive around trying to find a place to park.  My solution would be to create an app that showed available parking per neighbourhood on a grid map, and would specify what type and how much the parking cost. This would help people find parking quickly and would be a popular app for drivers, which would then provide revenue to the company at hand.

Be natural

Confidence is key when delivering a pitch in under two minutes. If you lack confidence in your idea, your boss will sense it and may lose interest. The best way to avoid that is to practice, practice, practice! By preparing your pitch in advance and practicing on friend and family or in the mirror, it will make you more confident in what you are saying. Acting natural and happy about your idea will liken other people to it as well.

Be prepared for follow-up

If your elevator pitch is a success, then your boss will want more details. Be sure to prepare for that as well and have answers to any questions on hand. This may include questions such as financing, feasibility, and target audiences. To properly formulate extra information, prepare potential questions that could follow your elevator pitch so that you are ready.

This is something everyone should know what to do. If you don’t use this information to pitch a business idea, use it as a way to practice public speaking or brainstorming. The key, regardless of the circumstance of your pitch, is to be confident in your ideas. It could be the next million dollar win — if you only present it in the right way.

How would you prepare an elevator pitch? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

DIY gift ideas for the not-naturally crafty

If you are looking to add a personal touch to your Christmas gifts this year, you can join many other Do-It-Yourself (DIY) enthusiasts in creating amazing homemade presents that will wow your family and friends. On the other hand if you are like me and lack artistic sensibilities, don’t expect the hand-painted tea cup craft idea you found on Pinterest to look identical to the one you create  (I ended up with a pink blob on a cup).

Instead, if you are not naturally crafty, but (for some reason) want to make your gifts this year then you have come to the right place. Here is the how-to on how-to make homemade gifts that won’t come out looking like you crafted with your eyes closed in the middle of a park on a windy night:

When planning your homemade gift ideas, remember to keep it realistic. Don’t plan to make 20 homemade coffee cup holders unless you have a sewing machine and ample experience. Not that I would try to lead anyone astray from learning a new hobby, but trying out a sewing machine for the first time during the holidays can be a stressful way to learn.

Let’s look at a few easier gift ideas to begin with. Why not try homemade camera straps or chalkboard painted coffee cups. To make the camera strap, you paint and decorate cotton webbing with acrylic paint and use glue to attach two hooks on either end. Make sure the hooks are flexible (or swivel) for easy use. The supplies to make the strap are easy to find and the decorative process is fool-proof; however, if you aren’t a painting-type of person, you can always use wool or other materials to create a braid.

Chalkboard paint is a fun way to decorate a low-priced coffee cups, trays, or even computer cases. Decorate the object and write loving messages on it for your friend or family member.

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It is also important to keep your budget in mind. When I design my DIY present plan, I write down everyone that will receiving a gift and then begin jotting down ideas for each person. By making a gift that I can give to many people, it cuts down on costs and time, and my gifts will still well-received by my loved ones. I then budget out how much the materials will cost before purchasing the craft supplies for the gifts. Going out to buy materials without a plan often leads to overspending and planning often helps to avoid superfluous costs. Remember, if it costs more to make your gift then it would to purchase it, you may want to reconsider your DIY plan.

Food gifts are often a good way to save money on DIY presents because you can make multiple batches and save money by buying ingredients in bulk. Purchasing a few flats of jars and make a variety of jams and preservatives.  Making holiday cookies and other treats for friends and family is also a good option. Lastly, soup in a jar with all of the dry ingredients layered looks lovely in a glass jar and makes a yummy soup once you add water and boil. Don’t forget to decorate the jars with ribbon for a festive feel.

 

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There are so many benefits to DIY gifts. First of all, they are made with love, something that can’t be said of that Old Navy sweater you may have wanted to pick up. You also get to avoid the consumerist train spectacle in malls across Canada. Just make sure that the gifts you make are useful and catered to the people you are giving them to, and you are sure to get a good reception!

What are your favourite DIY gifts to make for Christmas? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.