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December 2017

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Don’t fall for the fads this New Years, Toronto

I was watching television last night when it started — the parade of weight loss commercials encouraging women to join and lose those 10 pounds. The sheer number of advertisements being pushed on social media is just as disgusting. I can only imagine the affect this has on younger women who are already struggling with their body image.

To be clear, I am not opposed to seeking out aide in weight loss. Some weight loss programs can be incredibly helpful and can offer support to those struggling with their journey. But, these decisions are incredibly personal, and women (and men for that matter) should know there is no such thing as a quick fix. Any program promising you a 10lb loss in one or two weeks is bullshit — which means that most of them are bullshit.

This is the biggest problem with New Years. Most people treat January 1 as a reset, a time to set goals and work towards becoming your “ideal self”. It’s like all of a sudden, people reflect on the worst parts of themselves and try to come up with a plan to change them.

What some fail to realize is that things like the happiness that comes from something like changing your appearance can also come from confidence and acceptance. Instead of focusing on a number on a scale, try to learn something new. Set a goal to run a 5k, learn to skate, or go on a hike every month. Maybe it is something artistic like painting or taking up creative writing? By becoming active in something new, you gain confidence and focus that you can channel to other areas of your life.

It’s also about knowing that you can’t change overnight. If change is really what you want, you have to take it in steps. You need to be content with the journey or else you will become disappointed when you don’t achieve your goals quickly enough. Be kind to yourself. Be confident in your abilities. And know that you are perfect the way you are.

But, if weight loss is your goal for 2018 — and there is nothing I can say to change your mind — here are a few things you need to know:

  1. A program can help, but it is not a magic solution. Do your research and make sure your program does not deprive you of a whole food group and that it works for your lifestyle. Remember that whatever you choose, you must also be able to afford it financially. Many of these programs are not cheap in the long run, despite the New Year discounts available.
  2. A safe and steady weight loss is 1-2 lbs a week. Sometimes, it is less, and that is okay! Remember,  it is better to lose slowly than to lose quickly — as most people who do lose weight quickly gain it all back within a year.
  3. Anything with a pill is most likely not good for you. The same goes for any company that insists juices and cleanses that promise you a drop on the scale.
  4. The best way to lose weight is to eat healthier and move your body. Be active. Enjoy life to the fullest.

I am, of course, not an expert. The advice above is from personal experience. Please consult your doctor for more information.

Best of luck in the New Year!

A baby white rhinoceros was born in Toronto!

It was a Christmas Eve miracle! A white rhinoceros was born at the Toronto Zoo, the first of its kind in 26 years.

A press statement released by the Toronto Zoo said that “both mom and baby are doing very well, with reports that this first-time mom is very restful, calm and protective.  The calf is notably big and strong, weighing in at 62.3 kg.  He has been nursing more than would be expected, and apparently has very hairy ears.”

The white rhinoceros is listed as Near Threatened on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, with only 19,682-21,077 left in the world. The species is nearly threatened because of an increase in poaching for their horns, which can be sold on the black market for a hefty price. Their survival depends almost entirely on state protection.

The gestation period for a rhino is 425-496 days (poor mom!). The mom rhinoceros, named Zohari, was moved from the outdoor rhino habitat into an indoor area in November.

The Toronto Zoo is part of the White Rhinoceros Species Survival Plain, which helps maintain healthy rhinos and works towards conservation efforts worldwide. The last white rhino to be born at the Toronto Zoo was a male named “Atu”, and was born in 1990.

The next 30 days are critical for the mom and unnamed baby, which means they won’t be visible to the public. You can; however, check out these adorable videos provided by the Toronto Zoo!

What do you think the calf should be named? Let us know in the comments below!

New skating rink opens in Toronto under Gardiner

I’ve skated at Nathan Phillips Square and Harbourfront, as well as my local community centre, and each one has something unique I love. Depending on my mood — if I want music, ambiance, or an empty rink — I’ll visit each one in turn. So, I was incredibly excited when I heard Toronto’s plan to build a new skating rink under the Gardiner Expressway.

The Bentway Skate Trail is a 220 metre stretch of ice located right beside the Fort York Visitor Centre, between Strachan Ave. and Bathurst St. It’s a brilliant use of previously unused space, creating a public venue for winter activity in an area that typically isn’t visited. The city is even considering expanding the trail to include gardens, live performance areas, space for markets and exhibitions, and a dog park.

The Bentway will open on Jan. 6. at 11 a.m. There will be musical performances by Charmie Deller and Carmen Braden, as well as Ice Breaking demonstrations (hybrid of breakdancing and freestyle ice skating)! Be sure to check our some of the public art exhibitions and enjoy some of the food and beverage provided.

On the Sunday, the Mayor is hosting a skating party from 1-4 p.m. with complimentary skate rentals and hot chocolate!

Here are the hours:

Monday-Thursday: 11am-9pm (rentals available 4pm-9pm)
Fridays and Saturdays: 11am-11pm (rentals available all day)
Sundays: 11am-9pm (rentals available all day)

If you visit it next weekend, be sure to let us know what it’s like in the comments below! 

skating
The Bentway Trail, courtesy of the City of Toronto

How to stay warm in this frigid Toronto winter

It was -30 degrees this morning in Toronto with the wind chill, and according to the Weather Network, these temperatures are here to stay. For newcomers and those living on the street, this realization is even more shocking, not to mention dangerous. As Environment Canada puts it, “extreme cold alerts put everyone at risk.”

The City of Toronto has issued its own extreme cold alert, which means additional warming centres and shelter beds become available for those that need it.

Here are some tips to stay warm over the next few weeks:

Layer it up! I’m talking leggings under your pants, undershirts, and sweaters. When you go outdoors, make sure to wear an appropriate jacket that is warm and wind resistant. Pair it with a scarf that covers your entire neck and your face. Hats, mittens, and winter boots are necessary. If you don’t have any of these items, make a trip to the store as soon as possible. There are still some decent boxing day sales on (thank goodness they last for the whole week) and you won’t regret the investment. Don’t worry about your hair or your makeup in this weather. Just get from work to home safely and warmly — no one will care!

Stay indoors if you can! It’s all about reducing your exposure. In these conditions, skin will freeze after 10-30 minutes of exposure to the air. If you are waiting for a bus, for example, this can be problematic. It can also be problematic for drivers, as an increase in freezing temperatures also leads to an increase in black ice. Make sure to limit the time spent outside and talk to your employer about potentially working from home.

Insulate your home! It may be too late to put a plastic wrap around your windows this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative. If your radiator is battling against a cold front, your home won’t actually warm up. Drape a blanket or sheet over your air conditioner and windows. If you have to use a staple gun to keep the sheet up, so be it. This will create an extra barrier against the cold entering through these crevasses. You can also roll up towels and place them at the bottom of all your doors. Speaking of doors, make sure all your doors are closed so the heat can fill up a space without travelling to great a distance.

Stay active: The more you sit, the colder you will be. Try to move around, even it if is indoors. Do some yoga, walk up and down some stairs, do some jumping jacks, or even just wander around to different rooms in your home. First of all, it’s important not to lose your fitness regime in the winter, so moving at all is a step forward. Second of all, your body circulation will help you retain heat.

Soup and coffee! Thermoses are your friend. Make sure to warm your insides by drinking lots of warm beverages and hot meals. Invest in a good travel thermos to make sure these meals stay hot for hours. I love my travel mug, which allows me to drink hot coffee from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.!

How are you staying warm going into the New Year? Let us know in the comments below!

Toronto, take the transit this New Year’s Eve

Be safe this New Year’s Eve and avoid drinking and driving.

Corby Spirit and Wine is sponsoring a night of free transit. Ride the TTC from 7 p.m. on Dec. 31 to 7 a.m. on Jan. 1 for free.

“”New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest nights for the TTC with more than a quarter million people traveling with us,” said TTC Chair Josh Colle in a statement. “We are pleased to partner with Corby for the fourth year in a row to ensure that our customers can ride for free and get home safe on the TTC as they celebrate the New Year.”

Here is what you need to know:

  • Most routes will continue until 4 a.m. and then start up again around 6 a.m.
  • Blue Night buses will be running until 8 a.m.
  • Last trains will leave Union Station around 3:30 a.m. for Finch Station and Downsview Station
  • New Year’s Day will be Sunday service.
  • PRESTO users do not need to tap their cards when entering the subway or boarding the bus.

You can also use GO Transit and the UP Express for free after 7 p.m., courtesy of Metrolinx.

So, invite your friends for a night of fun in the downtown core of Toronto — and don’t drink and drive!

Woman of the Week: Kelsey Saunders

Kelsey Saunders is a building scientist with SUSTAINABLE.TO, a collaborative architecture firm that specializes in sustainability. Her role is to help model designs to make sure they perform well in areas of health and energy efficiency, including energy modelling, hygrothermal analysis, and sustainable design consulting. She also provides technical support and helps in research and development into new and existing technologies for residential construction.

Saunders has a Bachelor of Architectural Science from Ryerson University and is concurrently working towards her Master’s of Applied Science in Building Science. In the interview below, Women’s Post learns more about building science, what it means to truly build sustainably, and what needs to change in the industry.

Q: What drew you to architecture as a career?

A: I was always fascinated by architecture and the ability of space to evoke emotion and change perception, even before understanding how or why these spaces could be so moving. I wasn’t one of those people who always knew what they wanted to do and so I didn’t necessarily think that I would become an architect, but I had this special connection with architecture. My initial understanding was that architecture was mostly about aesthetics, because this is often how its portrayed, but when I came to understand that it is mostly about function I was hooked with the concept of shaping how people flow through and use the built environment and the impact it has on everyday life.

Why specialize in building science?

I’ve always done well in math and science, and in fact started out my academic career at the University of Guelph majoring in chemistry and taking calculus and physics courses. I enjoyed the work, but I didn’t see a career path, so I changed lanes and decided to pursue my passion for architecture. I did my undergrad at Ryerson University in the Bachelor of Architectural Science program. In fourth year, students specialize in either Architecture (design), Project Management, or Building Science. In the first three years I did really well in building science courses and found them to be the most meaningful and practical. At this time I still thought I would pursue a career in architecture, but wanted to get a deeper understanding of building science principles to improve my ability to design good buildings.

What exactly is a building scientist?

Building Science is a relatively new discipline that is filling a much needed gap between architecture and engineering (although many building scientists traditionally were engineers, until more recently). Building science is the analysis and control of the physical elements that affect buildings, such as climate, air movement, heat transfer, water, and moisture. Basically, it’s the science behind how we keep buildings dry and warm. The role of building science is to optimize the performance of buildings for improved energy efficiency, durability, indoor air quality, and comfort. There are many roles a building scientist can play. At SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building we do things differently. “Sustainability” is ingrained in the service we offer. It is not an additional service. Building science is integrated directly into the architectural design process to create durable, healthy, energy-efficient buildings for our clients. I’ve been with SUSTAINABLE.TO for nearly four years now. For me, it’s the dream job because my love of architecture and my science-based brain get to play together on a daily basis. We provide energy-modelling during concept design to guide our design decisions, air-tightness testing during construction as quality-assurance. It’s important to us that our buildings perform as well in practice as we intend them to.

Your focus at the moment is on sustainable building – what new developments are out there that our readers should be aware of?

Something that we are trying to focus on more at our office these days is embodied energy, which is the energy consumed by all of the processes associated with the production of a product, from the time it is mined to when it is installed on the job site. Previously, much of the focus has been placed on how much energy we can save by building an efficient building. So, for example, foam insulation products with high embodied energy have been used extensively to insulate new and existing building to reduce their energy consumption. What we are not realizing is that often, the energy saved over the life of the building doesn’t even cover the energy embodied in that foam insulation. So, if thats the case, what was the point? This is something that needs to be considered when designing truly sustainable buildings. There are some incredible natural building materials (even new innovative ones) with very low embodied energy – straw, clay plaster, cellulose, etc. – that we would love to see become mainstream. They are also safer and healthier choices.

Sometimes people can be overwhelmed when it comes to introducing sustainable options into their home – is there one thing you would suggest everyone doing in order to make a real difference?

The most important “sustainable strategy” is a good building envelope – which is the outside shell of your home, including all exterior walls, roof(s), and basement walls/floor. Investing in a good building envelope will reduce operating costs by improving energy efficiency, comfort, and the overall durability of your home. The best way to achieve this is to insulate, air-seal, and address water in the form of vapour and liquid. If you’re looking to renovate in the near future, insulation and air-tightness can be successfully address in a few different ways depending on how your home is built and the scope of your renovation. As a start, having a blower-door test performed on your home to detect potential air leaks and sealing them up with caulking and/or tape would help. You’d be shocked at the difference this will make to your energy bills. In terms of addressing water, make sure all of your downspouts and roof eaves are clean and directing water away from your home.

How well are Toronto builders doing in terms of sustainability? What more needs to be done?

Honestly, there are a handful of builders in Toronto that are leading the charge in terms of sustainable building. Sadly, it has been the same group of builders for the last 10 years and not much has changed. We attribute this to two things. First, the common “I’ve been building this way for years” mentality. Habits are hard to change, people are strong willed, and they don’t want to hear that they’ve been doing it wrong. Second, building codes are slow to change. As an example, we have been specifying continuous exterior insulation for years, and each year we push how much exterior insulation we use even further and as a result we push our contractors to develop methods of building better buildings. By contrast, the Ontario Building Code only now requires minimal exterior insulation as of 2017, and even then there are options to comply to the energy code without it – by installing more efficient mechanical equipment! It just seems crazy, but its a direct result of push-back from the building industry who thinks that exterior insulation is impossible.

What are you currently working on within Sustainable TO?

As the resident Building Scientist at an architecture firm, I typically get involved in every project in some way. The simplest way I find to describe my role is that I provide technical support to our design team. On some projects, this might be as simple as an intra-office consultation about the best way to insulate and air-seal a building, which windows to select, review mechanical drawings from an HVAC designer, etc. On other projects, I will take on a larger role including energy modelling for building performance optimization, specification of building materials, building envelope detailing (drawings details of how the building should be constructed for optimum efficiency/durability), field reviews during construction, and blower door testing. We also offer these services to projects from clients who have an architect but need a sustainability consultant to optimize energy performance, health, and durability. This can also include consulting and certification for programs like LEED and Passive House.

You are finishing (or are you finished) your Master’s of Applied Science at Ryerson – what are your goals for afterward?

I am completing my Master of Building Science at Ryerson, to graduate in Spring 2018. I’ve been doing it part-time while working at SUSTAINABLE.TO over the past 4 years. Honestly, I don’t see much changing for me one I receive it. I already have the job I want with a company and a team that I am proud to be a part of. As SUSTAINABLE.TO grows, I would like to simultaneously grow the building science department (currently just myself) and broaden the scope of our services.

What do you do when you aren’t working and what are you reading right now?

When I’m not working, I’m typically spending time with my black lab/boxer Odin. I’m very active and love to be outdoors. I’ve recently gained a love and respect for high-intensity training at the gym and supplementing with yoga. I’m a big foodie and have embraced vegetarianism by experimenting with new and interesting foods. I love to travel, but who doesn’t!

I’m currently reading a book called “The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well” written by Meik Wiking, a researcher at the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. Its about living a balanced life full of Hygge (translated loosely into “coziness” in a Canadian context). It’s an easy ready, but between work and school it’s a perfect read right now.

 

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Hey Toronto, the minimum wage is going up

No matter what happens in 2018, at least Ontarians will have some solace in the fact the minimum wage will increase by a dollar.

Ontario Minister of Labour announced that as of Jan. 1, the minimum wage will rise to $14. This means an estimated 55 per cent of all retail workers in the province will be getting a raise. Employees will also be eligible for an extra 10 days of personal emergency leave and increased family medical leave for eight to 28 weeks. The government is also instituting a new domestic or sexual violence leave of up to 10 individual days.

“Our plan for Fair Workplaces and Better Jobs provides a minimum wage people can actually live on and modernizes our labour laws to address today’s world. Too many families struggle to get by on part-time or temporary work. Those working full-time can be living in poverty. This is unacceptable in Ontario. Our plan will help ensure everyone who works hard has the chance to reach their full potential and share in Ontario’s prosperity,” said Flynn in a statement.

This is the first step towards the province’s plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2019.

Toronto: Metrolinx reaches new contract with Bombardier for Crosstown

Over the holidays, Metrolinx negotiated new contract terms with Bombardier, the transit agency responsible for producing light rail vehicles for Toronto’s Eglinton Crosstown light rail transit (LRT) system. According to a press statement, these new terms offer “significant financial penalties for Bombardier if they fail to deliver quality vehicles on-time.”

“This clearly resets the relationship with Metrolinx under its new leadership, and provides a clear path forward to ensure certainty on the technical and financial obligations of both partners,” a Bombardier press statement said.

Bombardier is contracted to manufacture 76 light rail vehicles, which is 106 less than the original contract for 182.

“We want our suppliers to succeed,” Metrolinx CEO Phil Verster said in a statement. “The new agreement provides compelling incentives for Bombardier to allocate the right resources and attention to the production of our Eglinton vehicles.”

The new agreement includes performance deadlines and a new late delivery penalty. Bombardier has also committed to be more transparent when it comes to production plans and progress, which means that Metrolinx will have the opportunity to address progress on a regular basis. Bombardier will ensure vehicle quality is sustained throughout the lifespan of the vehicles.

The GO Transit Operations and Maintenance contract was extended by 18-month.

In May, the provincial government signed a new agreement with Alstom Canada to provide vehicles that would be used on the Eglinton Crosstown. Alstom is still contracted to manufacture 61 cars, but they will be used on other transit lines such as Finch West LRT.

“We have always been resolved to find a clear negotiated path forward, one that delivers value to all parties, and foremost to the people of Ontario. Bombardier is fully committed to the Metrolinx project and to the people of the Greater Toronto Hamilton Area (GTHA),” said Benoit Brossoit, President, Americas Region at Bombardier Transport. “I look forward to working with Metrolinx’s CEO, Phil Verster’s, to advance this project and ensure that riders have the most efficient, comfortable and reliable transit system in the world.”

Do Toronto women need another gender-flipped film?

The trailer for the gender-flipped Ocean’s 8 movie dropped last week.

It does look good. The cast is amazing — Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Mindy Kaling and Rihanna to name a few — and the one-liners made me chuckle. I was a fan of the original Ocean movies, so I will probably see this one. It is being described as not a remake, but rather a spin-off or a sequel. It follows the storyline of Debbie Ocean, sister of Danny from the original films, who wants to steal an incredibly expensive diamond necklace worth one or one and a half billion dollars (unclear). She assembles seven other women to help with the job.

This is the second “gender-flipped” film set to be released. The first was the all-female Ghostbusters reboot and there are rumours of more on their way.

While I’m all for seeing films with strong female characters, I have to wonder why they are all remakes or sequels to pre-existing films in which the cast was dominated by men? Can anyone come up with a movie script that has a predominately female cast, with complex characters and a decent storyline. Wonder Woman was a good film, but those characters were also pre-existing in lore and comics.

Other original films revolve around romance or motherhood — and most of them are really terrible. They tend to make fun of women more than they empower them. What the world needs isn’t another remake, but rather an intense drama or action film with a diverse range of female stars. Preferably, this original film would be written, directed, and produced by a woman. 

I know it may be a long time until something like this is produced. But, I think the challenge is worth it. In light of feminism being the word of the year and sexual harassment being the story of the year, maybe it’s time to start considering real, strong women as inspiration in film.

Toronto eatin’: leftover turkey soup

Let’s be honest — you can only eat leftover Christmas dinner for a few days before it makes you want to throw up. Even a good turkey sandwich only goes so far. Instead, why not put some turkey aside to make something different. A good turkey soup is perfect for lunches or dinners, and excellent on a cold winter day.

The recipe I’m going to share is for a chicken vegetable soup I make on a regular basis. Just swap our turkey for chicken and you are good to go!

Start by sautéing garlic and a chopped onion in a large pot. Add in chopped vegetables of your choice (carrots, mushrooms, celery). Stir for a few minutes. Add canned corn and green beans. Pour in two cups of chicken broth and some pepper and salt to taste. Since the turkey will already be cooked, add it in last. Shred it up before putting it in the soup.

If you want to make it more of a Minestrone soup, you can add a can of tomatoes. Boil for 15-30 minutes, or until the vegetables are cooked.

In a separate pot, cook a cup of rice. When you are ready to serve the soup, warm it up with a few spoonfuls of rice. By cooking the rice separately, you avoid the starchiness of the liquid. You can substitute rice with potatoes or macaroni noodles, but the cooking process should still be the same.