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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.

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.

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.

Is Toronto stuck as the child poverty capital or can it raise a village?

Toronto is one of the most liveable cities in the world, but if you live in poverty with your children, it’s quite a different story. Ranging from long daycare subsidy waitlists, high rent, extraordinary transit costs, and expensive food, raising a family can seem nearly impossible.

Child poverty is a difficult pill to swallow and Toronto has been dubbed the Canadian capital in a report called ‘Divided City’ that was released in early November 2016. The report said that Toronto has the highest rate of low-income children in an urban area at 26.8 per cent.

Two years ago in November 2015, Toronto approved its first-ever poverty reduction plan after a report was released entitled ‘The Hidden Epidemic’, which outlined the impacts of child poverty in the city. Though child poverty has decreased from 29 per cent in 2009 to 26.8 per cent, it still impacts specific neighbourhoods in Toronto. The 2016 report is the first update since ‘The Hidden Epidemic’ and shows that child poverty has decreased overall, but is now concentrated to particular areas such as Regent Park, where 58 per cent of children live in low-income households. Families struggle to pay rents, using over 30 per cent of their income on rent (the threshold to be considered low-income) and children end up missing out on important recreation activities and parents struggle to feed their kids.

Unfortunately, with budget cuts the poverty strategy has been put on the back burner and important investments for children such as affordable housing and funding for recreation and daycare subsidies is facing debilitating cuts. The Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, Family Service Toronto with Ontario Campaign 2000, Colour of Poverty and Social Planning Toronto came together to create the updated report to emphasize the need for City Council to stick to their poverty reduction goals and avoid cuts as much as possible.

One of these goals needs to be affordable housing. Currently there are nearly 100,000 people on the affordable housing waitlist and helping families to obtain housing needs to be a first priority to help reduce poverty for families. If most of your money goes towards paying rent, it is nearly impossible to escape the spiral of poverty. One third of families with children under the age of 18 live in unaffordable housing. The report also highlights that a lone parent living on Ontario Works would have to pay 107 per cent of their income in order to live in inner-city Toronto. This pushes families out to areas with less transit and away from many of the jobs in the city. Affordable housing in inner-city Toronto needs to become a priority immediately.

One solution that City Council discussed in the Executive Committee is the poverty reduction goal of providing low-income TTC fare cuts. This will help transit users to better afford their commute to more available jobs and help alleviate the pressures of living a low-income lifestyle. Executive Committee passed the ‘Fair Pass Program’ that would lower the adult single fare by 33 per cent and the adult monthly pass by 21 per cent unanimously. The program, if approved by council, will be implemented in March 2018.

Though the city is working towards implementing small measures as a part of their poverty reduction program, all cuts that involve children-led programs including housing, recreation and daycare subsidy, need to be avoided. Oftentimes, it seems that children get left behind in the wake of transit-focused initiatives when it comes to the city council budget. Most importantly, affordable housing solutions need to be offered immediately, including portable housing, recognizing the need for affordable housing based on using more than 30 per cent of a parent’s income on rent and changing rent control guidelines.

Children are the city’s most important priority and putting them first is the only way to make Toronto Canada’s best city. Every child deserves to play in a safe home without pests, and learn how to swim or play tae kwon do. Families also need access to healthy food and equitable employment opportunities where their children are in safe daycares so that parents can obtain employment or go to school. Only when Toronto loses its reputation as the child poverty capital will it be a safe place for families to live. Only at that point will the city of Toronto truly be a considered a village that raises a child.

The magic six ingredients for homemade cruelty-free cleaning

Have you ever wondered what ingredients make up your cleaning supplies?

When looking into the ingredients that make up most of our all-purpose cleaners and laundry detergent,  it is difficult to find a cleaner that hasn’t been tested on animals. Alternatively, organic and cruelty-free options are often expensive and difficult to find. As an avid animal lover who is also on a tight budget, I decided to make my own cleaning supplies instead.

The first step is to go to the store and buy six simple ingredients that you can use to make a variety of environmentally-friendly cleaning products. Head to the baking aisle and grab Bob’s Red Mill Baking Soda, Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar, Dr. Bronne’s Castille Soap, organic sea salt, essential oils of your choice, and organic olive oil. If you opt for alternatives, then you can use any vegan app to ensure the product you are using is cruelty-free. Though purchasing natural supplies in bulk can be costly initially, you will save money with the amount of cleaning products you can make from these six items.

Once you have the cleaning products, purchase glass jam containers or spray bottles that use recycled plastic for the cleaning solutions. Mix vinegar and salt to make an all-purpose cleaner. Place it in a spray bottle and add an essential oil to use on bathroom and kitchen surfaces. Peppermint or citrus oil is a good option to downplay the vinegar smell. For a toilet bowl cleaner, mix baking soda and vinegar. Do not mix with regular toilet cleaners or it will create toxic fumes.

For a glass cleaner, combine vinegar with water and wipe with paper towel for a streak-free mirror. If you want to use a stainless steel cleaner, try using olive oil and vinegar to make your pots shine. This mixture can also be used to polish furniture. Add a lemon essential oil for a fresh scent. Switching gears to the kitchen, if you want to make a dish soap, use baking soda and castile soap. Pour hot water over the mixture until it is melted. Pour into a container and use on your dishes.

Finally, you can also use these magic eco-friendly ingredients to make a laundry soap. Melt one cup of baking soda, castile soap,  and 1/3 cup sea salt in seven litres of hot water. This can be used as a liquid soap. If you want the laundry soap to have a natural quality, add a lavender or lemon essential oil to the mixture. Homemade laundry soap is much cheaper and better for your skin as well.

Finding and making eco-friendly and cruelty-free cleaning supplies is a daunting task, but once you have all the ingredients in place you will have a clean and conscious house. Getting rid of my cleaning supplies that tested on animals was one of the most ethical and clear-hearted things I’ve done, and I’ve become an informed consumer when purchasing and making my own cleaning supplies.

What other cleaning recipes can you make with the magic six? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

Woman of the Week: Caitlin Dacey

Caitlin Dacey is not only a kick-ass musician, she also helps young girls in Toronto pursue their own dreams of being rock n’ roll queens. Chatting with the quasi punk and rock n’ roll singer/ musician, it becomes clear that she is a relaxed, extremely intelligent, and professional young woman who is a role model younger women in the world of music.  “It is weird looking at other bands where women aren’t very active. That is why Girl’s Rock Camp is so important to me. It is hard that there is such a disparity in the numbers of women in bands.”

In her 20’s, Dacey began her first band, Bella Clava, with her bandmate Steve. She wished she had started earlier, but chalks it up to societal stereotypes that influences young women to not get involved in rock n roll. “I got into music from listening to it and enjoying it. I never saw myself in a band. As a woman I didn’t know that was possible,” Dacey says.

Despite Dacey’s later start as a musician, she became the lead singer and guitarist with Bella Clava and toured the country. She later joined punk band Public Animal, playing keyboards and vocals with the local punk icon, Ian Burton. She also plays in an all-girls band called Overnight. Dacey is a natural singer with a smoky powerful voice and the sassy demeanour of a rock n’ roll queen, yet carries herself well with an honest and humble disposition.

Caitlin Dacey. Photo by Nic Pouliot.
Caitlin Dacey. Photo by Nic Pouliot.

Dacey is a high school teacher by day. She teaches biology, French, and most recently, audio production. Playing in three bands and teaching full-time, Dacey is definitely busy, but finds she needs both the kids and music to lead a happy life. “I did take a year off of teaching, but I was doing music full-time. I missed teaching and my students,” Dacey says. “It is how I need to live. I need to have different things on the go. The more active I am, the more productive I am.”

Dacey combines her passion of teaching and music by volunteering at Girl’s Rock camp Toronto, a non-profit organization that runs camps, workshops, and an after-school rock party. The initiative is run by female musicians who teach young girls how to make a band, choose a name and logo, and learn the musical instruments. The teachers help the girls to problem solve and work together and then there is a performance at the end of the camp.

Dacey says she is band camp coach and also helps with guitar. She teaches a group of five or six girls and helps them make a band. “There is a lot of emphasis on conflict resolution and how to navigate differences in opinion. It is teaching me lots of tools to apply in my own band,” Dacey says. “The kids teach you how to be positive. It re-inspires me to play music.” The fact that there are initiatives that exist such as Girl’s Rock Camp reflects that there is increasingly more support for girls who want to be musicians.”

Dacey points out that women are often placed in competition with each other, and it is initiatives like Girls Rock Camp that help to remove these barriers. “I absolutely want to be supportive. Not every interaction with other women is going to be positive. You want especially people who are trying things for the first time to have that positive experience. You want them to see other women as a network and allies. Unfortunately we are taught that we are in competition with one another and that there is only space for one woman,” Dacey says. “Working with my students and rock camp and my own interests, and trying to live my life where I’m in control of what I’m doing makes me feel like I’m doing my part in a small way.”

Dacey is also an avid reader and is working her way through the complex and fascinating, Elegance of a Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. She also likes to go rollerblading while on tour so that she can actually see the towns and cities that her bands visit with a limited time scope. If you get a chance to see Dacey perform or have a daughter who has dreams of being a musician, Dacey is a true music inspiration with the classic grace of a true rock n’ roller.

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Newsgirls boxing club is a knockout as trauma based therapy

Violence often leaves women feeling numb. That is how it felt for me. Slowly but surely, some people learn to feel normal. Others feel constantly hurt and then one day, they may not feel at all. Though emotions can be cumbersome, not having them is hauntingly worse. The moment arrives when you have finally found a safer place in your life, escaped the violence you once lived in, and you want to feel emotions. It becomes essential to feel again, but how can you?

Toronto Newsgirls Boxing Club gives women a safe way to take control of their body and begin the process of feeling again. Located in one of the industrial buildings on Carlaw, just north of Dundas, the boxing gym features images of strong-looking women boxing in a modest studio, with a a ring and several gym bags surrounding it. Immediately upon entering the gym, the coaches and participants are welcoming and warm. I felt at home right away.

Three women began Toronto Newsgirls Boxing Club 10 years ago to help those who had experienced violence using trauma-based boxing. Owner and coach Savoy Howe, along with Associate Professor of Kinesiology at Brock University Cathy Van Ingen, and Opportunity for Advancement Executive Director, Joanne Green, founded the Shape your Life program (SYL) within the club.  This program is designed to help women who have experienced trauma find a connection to their bodies once again through exercise and empowerment.

“The big thing is it is a safe space. It is a space to ensure everybody is welcome and everyone is safe,” Van Ingen said. “That is the biggest thing and we know that women need to feel that their bodies are in control.”

On Nov. 25, also known as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Newsgirls announced that the SYL program would be receiving $420,000 from the Public Health Agency of Canada.  The Prime Minister himself sent the boxing studio a video of congratulations and support.

@newsgirlsboxing I’m sorry I couldn’t be there today. I’m in your corner & hope to train with you soon! À bientôt. pic.twitter.com/AiZtkAUsDS

One of the rare and amazing things at Newsgirls is the community and support network that Howe has managed to create with the other coaches and women who participate. The gym is not only a place to box, but it is also a safe haven where these women can really be themselves. Women participating in the SYL program will learn boxing techniques, which can help reconnect them with their bodies in an empowered way. Being able to embrace anger in a controlled manner using your own body is a helpful tool in the healing process from domestic violence. The program also provides TTC tokens, free food, and endless amounts of support from the coaches and women who attend.

Program Coordinator, Tania Jivraj began SYL 10 years ago as a participant in the first pilot program and now helps to run the program today. Jivraj is one of many examples of women that are forever changed from taking part in the trauma-based boxing program. “It turns out I like hitting stuff. It turns out I’m good at hitting stuff. It turns out I am angry, I’m a fighter, I am vulnerable, and I am strong,” Jivraj said. “Ten years later, I was hired as the program coordinator and I get to work every day with strong, vulnerable women.”

Owner and Coach Savoy Howes speaking on November 25 at $420,000 funding annoucement. Photo by Kaeleigh Phillips.
Owner/Coach Savoy Howes speaks on Nov. 25 at $420,000 funding announcement. Photo by Kaeleigh Phillips.

Newsgirls will use the federal funding to collect data from the next six groups of SYL and then create a trauma-based boxing manual to be implemented in other gyms across the country. “Our goal for Shape your Life is to implement in other regions of Canada as well as around the world,” Howe said. By researching and collecting the stories of women who participate in the program, it will allow the women at Newsgirls to make an effective and life-changing program to combat the damaging impacts of violence against women.

On a personal level, the program’s new funding allows me to continue attending and growing as a recovering woman who has a desire to reconnect with her emotions and body. I have a long way to go to deal with my own inner battles and boxing is the first step. It takes courage to put on boxing gloves, and it is truly empowering to see other women show their anger in such a constructive and open manner. I look forward to continuing my journey in learning to fight for what’s really important in life.

Parent vs. Winter: A mother’s candid take on the struggles of snow pants

I love winter. When snowflakes begin to fall, all I want to do is cozy up with a warm peppermint hot chocolate and have a snowball fight in the park. As November comes to an end, I look forward to the snowy days ahead, and then I remember.  Two horrible words that all parents of young children shudder to hear: snow pants.

Getting all of the winter layers on a small child is similar to trying to get a spastic jack Russell into his sweater and booties. It involves chasing said child around the house, pinning them down to get their snow pants on, and then desperately hoping that they don’t tell you that they have to go to the bathroom once all the gear is finally on (this results in a frantic removal of all the snow gear to avoid an accident).

The struggles of the evil snow pants vary according to the age of the child. When my daughter was an infant, picking out the snowsuit and fitting it was quite easy because she was mostly immobile. Getting the puffball into the car seat with all the extra layers was quite the opposite. The other problem was the howling tantrums that ensued after I cruelly prevented my daughter from sucking on her toes (a favourite baby pastime).

As children grow older, the challenge of winter clothes changes and arguably grows more difficult. Toddlers are akin to baby raptors and love to run with their legs out to the side much like the creepy monsters that once inhabited the planet. In other words, they are fast and wily when it comes to avoiding winter clothes, often outwitting the most able-bodied parent with their evil plots. Getting winter clothes on involves having to hold them down with your legs and hoist the snow pants on while they try to get away. Luckily, they haven’t quite figured out zippers yet, so as long as you are fast, the snow pants will remain on. Mittens be damned, buy 20 pairs because you will be replacing them often.

My daughter is now five years old and can get her own snowsuit on! This is a miracle after years of wasting 20 minutes on winter gear. But the war of the snow pants has not ended here. Now begins the era of the fashion diva. Even though black snow pants are discounted 25 per cent compared to the hot pink option, my daughter falls to the ground as if I’ve destroyed her when I hold up the black pair. Everything must be pink or purple. The boots, the snow pants, the mittens and if I stray from this ensemble, a level five tantrum begins. I don’t need to elaborate on what happened the day we only had black mittens because she had lost the previous five pairs of pink ones (we were extremely late for school).

Currently my daughter sports a purple felt jacket that goes to her ankles and makes her look like a three-foot 1940’s Russian baroness. She refuses to wear a shorter coat. Over the years, I have learned to pick my battles and it is honestly entertaining to watch her strut down the sidewalk in all her glory while also looking distinctly like a mini-Michelin man. Other tips I have picked up now that the toddler years are behind us also include putting an extra hat and mitts in her backpack and asking her if she needs to go to the bathroom before we start putting snow pants on.

I always add on an extra 10 minutes on our winter walk to school because walking with snow pants is no easy feat. My daughter can barely put her arms down because she is wearing so many layers, and that means we must trek slowly. On the other hand, if she does fall from a slippery sidewalk, her puffy winter layers provide some protection from the fall.  Soon enough, we are used to our winter routine, but of course there are initial growing pains when winter first begins.

In the war between parents vs. snow pants, snow pants always wins. The trick is to laugh at the necessary annoyances of keeping our children warm. Winter can be a wonderful thing with the right attitude, and who better to help us crabby parents get excited about snow days then our little children? As long as they don’t scream too much, right?

Enjoy the winter, and remember, stay warm!

Oh My! Homemade vegan banana pudding pie!

Sugary cravings are only normal around Christmas time and as a vegan, there are many delicious dessert options with hidden health benefits to choose from. This week, I craved a classic banana pudding pie.

I decided I wanted to use a cookie crust with a banana pudding to suit my own taste buds. Here’s the recipe:

Cookie Crust:

  • A box of white Oreo cookies
  • 3 tbsp. vegan earth balance butter

I purchased a box of white Oreo cookies (which are vegan!) and blended them with vegan butter until they were the consistency of sand granules. Then press them into a pie shell container until even. Refrigerate for one hour while making the rest of the pie.

Blending white oreo cookies with earth balance butter to create a pie crust. By Kaeleigh Phillips.
Blending white oreo cookies with earth balance butter to create a pie crust. By Kaeleigh Phillips.

Banana pudding pie mixture:

  • 4 ripe mashed ripe banana (about 4 bananas)
  • 2 cups of almond milk
  • 1/8 tsp salt and tumeric
  • 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • 2 1/2 tbsp coconut butter or buttery spread
  • 1/2 cup almond milk of choice
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Mash four bananas together in a bowl and add the almond milk, salt, turmeric, maple syrup and coconut butter and blend together. Once blended, warm up and add cornstarch and additional almond milk and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir with a whisk consistently for two minutes while the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and cool.

Heating up the banana mixture with cornstarch. By Kaeleigh Phillips
Heating up the banana mixture with cornstarch. By Kaeleigh Phillips

Once cool, pour on top of the cookie crust and refrigerate for two to three hours until it is solid. Enjoy!

Vegan desserts use top-quality ingredients and that usually makes it takes a bit more authentic than the typical pudding pies you see in stores.  Try adding a bit of flax seed and vanilla protein powder for a hidden nutrient kicks (especially if feeding to kids).

What kind of pie would you like to see Women’s Post make? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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