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Domestic living

If you had told me a couple years ago that I would be happy going to the gym, swimming and making lunch with a boyfriend, I would have told you that you were insane. I probably would have said something about how I am a wild thing and I’m almost certain that I would have quoted Samantha from Sex and the City.

This weekend Boyfriend and I did just that though. We went to the market, we went to the gym, we made lunch together and then walked around the city in the sunshine and not once did I feel like I’d given up a piece of myself to be the somewhat domestic gal.

The thing that makes Boyfriend different is that I never feel like I’m losing myself in the domestic bliss, nor is it boring or typical. We go swimming in an effort to relax after a workout and he ends up tossing me around the pool and pretending he’s a shark. (Okay, I was the one pretending to be a shark.) We make lunch while I sing country songs and he makes fun of me for doing so. The little things that I thought meant the death of a relationship, the simple pleasures, make me happier than any deeply thought out and planned date with the Big Ex ever did.

It’s simple really: it doesn’t matter what you’re doing when you’re with someone that makes you smile. You could be skydiving or arguing over who gets to chop the vegetables for the salad, but as long as you’re with someone you love it’s fun.

Like most girls, I claim to hate rom-coms but I’ve seen my fair share of movies starring Katherine Heigl or Reese Witherspoon. And while I regret watching them after the credits roll, I go back to them like a piece of chocolate cake that I know is bad for me; the sugary sweetness is sometimes exactly what you need even if you know deep down that when you stare at that plate of crumbs you will feel terrible about yourself. Deliciously terrible. Rom-coms are sometimes exactly what I need: mindless entertainment with a happy ending, but the problem with that is that afterwards I’m always wondering why I don’t have a relationship like that. No man has ever told me he loved me via cue cards in the snow at Christmas; I’ve never been in a Thai prison, so I’ve obviously never been saved by a gorgeous British man from said Thai prison; and most importantly no man has ever said, “As you wish” to me, not really anyway.

So I’m in a relationship that will never be worthy of a rom-com, because just being happy without question is not the stuff great movies are made of. But I get to date my best friend and for that I am incredibly grateful. Besides, if life gets too easy and domestic I’ll just get a puppy and introduce that madness into our lives.

Sunshine and real estate

It’s common knowledge by now that the weather has a tangible effect on retail sales. December sales suffer if a snowfall doesn’t happen to get consumers into the “holiday spirit,” and sunny days can mean day-long window shopping excursions that turn into impulse purchases and the obligatory dinner and drinks that follow. The real estate market is no different.

Even with major investments like real estate, consumer tendencies seem to move with the mercury, almost independent of the economic climate. In Toronto, January is traditionally the slowest month for home sales, no doubt a combination of lower cash flow after the holiday season and the difficulty of showing houses effectively. Buyers are less motivated to venture out through the snow and slush to view multiple properties, and sellers can find it difficult to showcase the true beauty of their properties through the ice and snow.

And then there’s spring and summer, “high season” for those in the real estate game and prime time for sellers who want to get top dollar for their properties by employing agents who know how to capitalize on the landscaping and vibrancy of their biggest season.

The numbers are already starting to show the rise in national home sales.  According to statistics released just this month by the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), national home sales rose 0.6% from March to April, with home sales improving in more than half of all local markets from March to April. This trend was led by gains in the GTA, Winnipeg, Calgary and Victoria, and with the national average sale price rising 1.3% on a year-over-year basis in April, the Canadian housing market is firmly lodged in balanced territory, which is great news for buyers and sellers alike.

Even with the new mortgage rules that took effect in 2012, the market has remained remarkably steady, and the upward trend for this warmer season is still a palpable reality for all those caught up in the real estate game.

Hours of sunshine always helps me shake off the lethargy and “blah-ness” of the winter months and gets me even more excited and geared up for my work, and I can always see the excitement in motivation in my clients as well. I feed off of it, I love it. And it’s that energy that can translate into some incredible transactions this season.

Denim shorts and wedge sandals, sunshine and real estate: my four favourite summer things. I’m looking forward to having a blast. Won’t you join me?

Exploring Toronto’s artistic side to improve your home

Toronto is full of colour, culture and creative flair. If you are in the process of finding the right painter to decorate a new pad but are stuck for artistic and interior design ideas, Toronto is known for its vibrant side, which offers creative inspiration to its residents and visitors all year round. Here is a look at some of the points of interest in Toronto to look out for.

The Art Gallery of Ontario

This towering structure houses 80,000 exciting exhibitions from works which celebrate the past to modern performance pieces and sculptures. It is one of the largest art museums in North America and was expanded further in 2008. The new building alone – designed by Frank Gehry – offers interior design ideas and inspiration for your own pad, including how to manipulate more natural light into a space using the right material.

Toronto International Art Fair

More than 100 fine art galleries take part in Toronto’s annual art fair, Canada’s only contemporary visual art event. Its exhibitions include the NEXT gallery, which showcases emerging artistic talents, and FOCUS ASIA, which, as the title suggests, focuses on ornate, traditional and modern Asian art.

The great outdoors

Take advantage of Toronto’s beautiful surroundings to transfer to your own space, inside and out.

From classic topiary and geometric shapes at Edwards Garden to unspoilt landscapes in Toronto Island Park, have some fun picking out natural colours and bold plants. Cross over to the Beaches neighbourhood with its mazes of stylish colonial houses with planted sidewalks as well as beachside views. Nearby is the lush Kew Park and Gardens, with a myriad of planting ideas for your garden.

Markets

St Lawrence Market is a must-visit moving landmark in Toronto. This farmers market is a perfect chance to pick up some great kitchenware whilst having a bite to eat and partaking in some people watching. Alternatively, have a wander around the little boutiques and outside stalls at the Kensington Market, a colourful bohemian hub by Spadina Avenue. Be warned, parking is nonexistent.

Shopping

Where better to find new decorative items than in the safe and sure environment of a mall? Toronto boasts many malls which have little boutiques alongside recognizable larger stores including the Eaton Centre with more than 320 stores in Downtown Toronto as well as the Yorkdale Shopping Centre which has rave reviews from past visitors. If you are looking for bespoke, designer interior design items, Toronto has premium stores dotted around its streets including Made which showcases young, fresh designer items and the larger Kiosk store which has floors of inspiring furniture collections.

 

Old flames

I started talking to City Boy again recently. You know, the boy that I was supposed to fly off to Shangri L.A. with last summer, except that definitely didn’t happen and I met Boyfriend a month and a half after I didn’t fly anywhere.

I’ve thought about what this would be like, because I was so incredibly into him and he broke my heart, but we fell into conversation like we hadn’t missed a day and for once it didn’t bother me that we didn’t work out. There was a little flirting and I know he misses me, but we weren’t good for each other and I’m so much happier now than I ever was trying to make a long distance relationship work.

Before Boyfriend I worried that I would carry a flame for City Boy forever because we never had any closure, it was over as quickly as it began and nothing felt dealt with; but after talking to him I feel like maybe we can be friends.

When you find someone you can love, really love, the old relationships and hurt and broken hearts don’t disappear but they suddenly matter less because all the ones that came before weren’t right you just didn’t know it at the time. I’ve fallen for many men before and I still wonder about the Big Ex or what would have happened if my first love hadn’t died, but the pain that used to accompany those memories is faded and distant now.

The best part about finding that perfect person for you is that he’s perfect for you. He could be strange and weird but he’s strange and weird in a way that matches your own strangeness. City Boy was always too into work to ever really be with me and even when I thought the Big Ex and I would work out my friends knew better.

I wouldn’t trade all the second chances with old flames in the world for the happiness I have now. If City Boy told me he wanted to try it all over again I know I’d say no and do so happily. Maybe there wasn’t any closure to that whirlwind romance but I don’t need it because I have something better: I have someone who makes me a priority instead of an option.

It’s taken me a while to get to this place, it’s taken so long for me to find something that is healthy for me and makes me happy that sometimes I think it’s a dream.

I’m not one for giving advice, because I’m a bit of a mess of insecurities and craziness myself, but if I could offer anything to the single girls out there it would be this: don’t settle, it isn’t worth it. Find someone who doesn’t make you wait forever, someone who doesn’t think all important conversations should happen over BBM and someone who doesn’t fly off without telling you. There’s someone out there who won’t make you want to pull your hair out… at least not in a bad way.

Eight best of the “Hipster Harper” meme

Stephen Harper a hipster? Hardly these days, but a photo of Harper in his youth clad in a plaid shirt with shaggy hair has inspired some on the internet to dub him a proto-hipster.

The memes centre around just what exactly a cooler-than-thou young Harper’s motivations would be for his less popular actions as Prime Minister.

Check out our favourite eight examples of the meme from around the web.

 

Put a spring in your step

It seems spring has finally sprung. People are on the move, and more than eager to get back on track with outdoor activities and workout programs.

Still, many are still experiencing a touch of the winter blues. No matter how anxious, it’s not easy to switch gears from often lazy winter indoor activities and exercise routines.

No matter what your outdoor sport may be, starting slowly, rebuilding strength and endurance can save you from (or prevent) an early seasonal injury that can ruin a summer of fun and physical activity. For runners, who may have not kept up steady workouts over the winter as avidly as hoped, the progression of walking to jogging to running might be a route to consider. Remember, pre-run warm-up and post cool-down stretches to prevent injury, and to ensure a safe reentry into steady outdoor workout routines. Getting into a regular schedule, without pushing it, keeps you consistent and on track, without pushing your body too much, and can leave you wanting more…and that’s a sure sign you’re ‘back in the saddle.’

No matter how far you go, remember to take and drink water. You might feel the outing is not long enough to need it, but who knows: on a nice day, you may walk a little longer, or stop in a park. Water is always needed for strength, endurance and focus. If you love to cycle but hate the stationary bike, you may not have kept your legs as strong as they could be for riding outside. Getting back to the streets can test balance going over uneven pavement, stones and twigs. Early spring can bring a lot of rain. Wet streets are harder to stop on and can be a challenge for the best of riders at any time.

As important as anything, drivers aren’t as used to seeing as many bikers on the road and need to readjust their eyes and attitudes to the outdoor athletes of summer. Rain and wet roads are harder to navigate for them too. Some drivers don’t feel comfortable around bikers. Proper protection and rider safety is a priority.

Getting back in tune with your body is important too. Massage and reflexology are just two healthy, preparation and injury preventing approaches en route to getting back in touch with the body/mind connection.

And besides, they feel great.

Avocados: the super fruit

Last week I was lucky enough to be asked to try some recipes with Mexican avocadoes. I love avocadoes. I probably eat at least two avocados a day, maybe more. But if you had asked me 20 years ago if I liked avocados I would have said, “I have never tasted one.”

Yes, I am one of those who ate meat and potatoes and a little seasonal fruit most days. Foods like cilantro, avocados, arugula, and anything else that was green, except frozen peas, were probably not high on my list, nor was it served at our supper table.

Then my life became all about food allergies and what the heck was there left to eat. Avocados were on the ‘Can Eat’ list. So I tried one and, well, I loved them. They are so smooth and creamy and I can’t imagine how I had lived without them.

I first tried avocados in a local vegetarian restaurant where they had made them into an avocado and onion salad with lemon juice, uembushi vinegar, olive oil and salt. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Since that day I have never looked back and every time I go grocery shopping, which is fairly often, I pick up at least six avocados.

My significant other was like me, and when we met a few years ago I tried to get him to eat avocados. He would always say “I don’t really care for them”, and I would say,” have you ever tried them?”

Now he eats more avocados than I do. His favourite way to eat them is sliced on toast or with a chicken sandwich. He also loves them with his eggs on the weekend, or on homemade flax crackers.

My girlfriend always carries an avocado in her purse when she goes out for dinner, just in case there is nothing on the menu that she can eat. She will ask the waitress to bring her some olive oil and lemon and voila she has a healthy snack.

I put sliced avocado into all my salads. Whether it is a green lettuce salad, a cabbage salad or kale salad, avocado always makes it taste so much better.

Avocados are full of healthy fats and help keep the body alkaline, which helps us to keep disease away. Avocados contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, folate, and more potassium than a banana. Avocados can help lower cholesterol, so why not pick up a few avocados at your local supermarket.

It is best to buy avocados that are green and firm. You know they are ready to eat when the skin changes from green to almost black and is slightly soft to the touch.

What about avocados for dessert?

Last night I decided to make an avocado pudding.

 

2 avocados
1 banana
5 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
½ cup coconut milk

 

Mix all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and enjoy.

I found this a little sweet, but my husband loves sweet things (guess that is why he loves me). If I were making this just for me, I would put in less sweetener, but I have to say the fresh maple syrup that we just picked up at the sugar bush last month makes this a delicious and healthy avocado-banana pudding.

 

Want to try more of Shirley’s recipes? Enter our contest to win her cookbook, Finally…Food I Can Eat.

REAL ESTATE ETHICS: Dealing with property stigmas and dark pasts

One year ago, almost to the day, the entire nation was rocked by the discovery of 33-year-old university student Jun Lin’s torso in a suitcase behind a Montreal apartment building. Luka Magnotta, 30, now faces first-degree murder charges with allegations that Lin was actually killed and dismembered in his apartment.

That bachelor apartment sat vacant for more than six months following the international manhunt that led to Magnotta’s arrest. The building’s superintendent, Eric Schorer, confirms that it has now been rented to a man he describes as a foreigner who may not know anything about the past of his current home.

I don’t know how I feel about this. As a Realtor, current legislation requires that I disclose to potential buyers or renters any physical defects of a property that may be hidden from view. That’s not a choice or a business decision. That’s the law. But there is no law that requires that I disclose any stigmas or dark pasts and revelations about a home. So do I let the new owners know that the property was the site of a murder? A suicide? It has nothing to do with the structure of the property itself, but even my appraiser agrees that certain events will impact a property’s value, even if it doesn’t impact the physical structure.

Talkative neighbours could impact future sales, and prospective buyers who aren’t even suspicious of any negative events could pull up an old news story just by Googling the address of a property. The financial impact is real, but even foregoing that element of a Realtor’s duty, in metropolitan cities like Montreal and Toronto, the number of buyers and renters with cultural backgrounds that could make them sensitive to these stigmas has to be taken into consideration.

I started this article unsure of how I felt about this topic. There are financial realities that impact both sides, and I suppose it comes down to a case by case issue as to what needs to be disclosed – the murder last year vs. the neighbourhood kids think the place is haunted. But in reality, it comes down to a pretty simple rule that should be guiding every decision I make in business.

It is my duty as a Realtor to do right by my clients and the individuals that I work with, and that includes following the letter of the law in addition to staying true to my moral compass and disclosing what I think needs to be disclosed to the young couple renting their first condo, the young family buying their first home, the business partners buying another investment property, and everyone in between. All hands on deck and all cards on the table – people deserve to know all the details behind what will most likely be the single largest transaction of their lives, and I have an obligation as a professional and as a good person to make sure that that happens.

 

Follow Chellie on Twitter: @ChellieMejia

CONTEST: Win a $300 gift certificate to Harry Young Shoes!

Love shoes? Want to support a company that makes a positive contribution to society? Well, you’re in luck because we have the contest and company for you. This October, Harry Young Shoes will donate $5 to the Daily Bread Food Bank for every pair of Munro shoes purchased at the store. And now, Women’s Post and Harry Young Shoes are offering one lucky winner the chance to win a $300 gift certificate to the store. Get your feet moving and enter today!

Contest Rules & Regulations:
Contestants must reside in Canada (excluding Quebec) to be eligible to win
Contestants must be 18 or older
Contestants are eligible to enter 1x daily (further entries will not be counted)
Contest closes on Thursday, October 31st, at 1 p.m.

 

THIS CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED, THANKS FOR ENTERING

Win inner peace

This is your chance to win a spot in the very exclusive fall Shanti Yoga retreat organized by Cruda Cafe. On October 18-20, expert yoga guide Paula Marin will guide you through a weekend of yoga and meditation designed to bring you inner peace while executive chef Claudia Gaviria cooks you meals that will convert you to the raw food diet. Only eight spots are available for the whole retreat, so don’t miss out on this incredible opportunity to win one. Enter today!

Contest Rules & Regulations:
Contestants must reside in Canada (excluding Quebec) to be eligible to win
Contestants must be 18 or older
Contestants are eligible to enter 1x daily (further entries will not be counted)
Contest closes on Wednesday, October 16th, at 12 p.m.

This contest is now closed. Thanks for entering!