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Will replacing the OMB cause more problems?

The Ontario government is looking to replace the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) with something called the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal.

The OMB is an independent adjudicative tribunal that conducts hearings and makes planning decisions on zoning bylaws, development proposals, subdivision plans, and ward boundaries. It has been around for over 100 years and has been criticized by some for its lengthy and costly process.

Despite these criticisms, the OMB is considered a positive third party officiate between developers and municipalities. The fear is that the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal may not have the same reputation.

One of the biggest challenges with the new tribunal is the elimination of the “de novo” hearings, which allows the OMB to consider municipal land use planning decisions as though no previous decision had been made. This is frustrating for city councils that may have already made a ruling on a development and it lengthens the hearings because all evidence has to be presented anew. It also gives the perception the OMB favours developers, despite this not being the case.

The Local Planning Appeal Tribunal is supposed to be independent and at an arms’ length from the government — but removing the “de novo” hearings will ensure the decisions of city councillors and/or provincial representatives are taken into consideration during appeals, effectively giving them more power than before.

Another example is the new appeal process. The tribunal will only be able to overturn a municipal decision if it does not follow provincial policies or municipal plans, unlike the OMB, which has power to overturn a decision if it isn’t considered the best planning decision. Instead of repealing the decision, the tribunal will then give the municipality 90 days to take new action based on that information. The tribunal will have a final say only if on a second appeal the plan still falls short of provincial policies. The idea is to give communities more control in land use planning.

The new legislation will also exempt a range of major land use planning decisions from appeal, including Official Plans to support transit areas like Go Train and subway stations or Official Plans (and their updates) that have been approved by the province, as well as minister’s zoning orders.

All of these changes to the appeal system are meant to try and reduce hearing times and encourage mediation. Since length and cost are the two biggest complaints about the OMB, this makes sense. However, the new tribunal also makes it difficult for developers to get their projects past councillors who may not approve of their blueprints despite it being the best planning option. It also limits hearings to policy rather than encourage innovation and creative thinking.

While the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal does include a number of interesting new policies that would encourage resident and community engagement, it is unclear how it will function as a third-party appeal agency.

The legislation in question, also known as Bill 139, “Building Better Communities and Conserving Watersheds Act “, has already passed the first reading in the Legislative Assembly.

What do you think of Bill 139? Will it help or hinder the system? Let us know in the comments below! 

Tourism Toronto captures beauty and creativity in city

The perception of Toronto by outsiders and those actually living within the city are very different. As someone who moved year a little over a year ago, I can confidently say that Toronto is not the mean, green, and cold place many across Canada think it to be.

Toronto is hot, it is fresh, and it has an edge to it that offers people many creative outlets to express themselves. The new video “The Views are Different Here,” released by Tourism Toronto, truly manages to capture Toronto’s essence and shows a variety of different perspectives to living in the Big Smoke. The video is getting massive hits on social media because it shows the quintessential Toronto narrative of a multicultural city, where everyone is welcome. Tourism Toronto manages to capture the annual pride parade, the AGO, Caribana and a Drake concert in the video and it creates a narrative of what it is like to be a part of the multicultural fabric of this city.

When I moved to Toronto from Western Canada, I had certain assumptions of the city. I thought it would be big, mean, and greasy. It has the reputation of being the main hub of Canada where people go to work long hours and spend most of their time underground on the subway. I was completely surprised when I learned that Toronto isn’t just a chaotic and busy city, but actually exudes a vibe that is creative and beautiful; yet, authentic. Toronto is replete with people full of large ideas concerning art, the environment, music, and everything in between. Most of these folks manage to own their ideas, but are not pretentious or self-serving about it. In other words, they are real and genuine creators looking to collaborate and work with other like-minded people.

Though Toronto typically has a reputation of being one of the more ‘unfriendly’ Canadian cities, its actually just the opposite. The majority of city dwellers are non-judgmental and very kind to each other. I have met so many lovely people since moving here and am struck nearly every day by how kind the average person really is. There is a level of openness and progressive discussion in this city (perhaps due to deep ties leaning to the left politically) that opens doors for a variety of topics. Any daily conversation could range from an 80 year old man about attending a drag show to discussing the future of classical music with a 20 year old woman with green hair.

I will even admit that the man bun has grown on me. It isn’t just a sign of the dreaded hipster, but has become a fashion symbol for the Toronto urban style ([note the clip in the tourism video of the older gentleman with the man bun, doesn’t he look suave?). It is important to notice that the video also includes a special focus on graffiti art in the city. To see the beautiful street art that exists in the city showcased as a tourist grab is phenomenal. It is a form of art that deserves celebration and there is a turn happening in Toronto where art is become an important avenue of expression for the city. Lastly, the video also manages to put a creative spin on the TTC with ballet dancers on the subway. This gives a more positive outlook for the subway system, and dare I say it almost makes commuting on public transit look enjoyable.

It really is incredible to see Tourism Toronto for giving other outsiders such as myself a more realistic glimpse of what this beautiful city has to offer. I am proud to live in this dirty, artsy, and fascinatingly multicultural city. It is busy, it is loud, and it is in your face. I would ask for nothing else in the years of my youth and I am astounded nearly every day by something new and fresh in this city that I just hadn’t noticed before.

What did you think of “The Views are Different here”? Let Women’s Post know in the comments below.

How to fight off that pesky PMS

If you Google “how to handle PMS”, a lovely box appears at the top of your screen with a useful list of topics on how to “treat” mood swings. According to most of the links associated with the topic, a girl should simply exercise, avoid caffeine and sweets, eat small meals, and try to manage or reduce stress.

Thanks Google. Helpful.

The problem is that PMS (or Premenstrual Syndrome) generally makes you want to curl up in a corner under blankets instead of venturing outside to use an exercise bike, makes you crave sugar and salt to such an extent that you want to eat a whole bowl of mac and cheese by yourself; and makes you stress about stupid things that don’t matter.  Obviously, if women avoided all of these things life would be easier, but the problem is that PMS makes us feel like we can’t!

My PMS is terrible. It lasts almost a full week leading up to my time of the month, and during that week, I’m a mess. I never know if I’m going to be happy, sad, frustrated, or angry. It takes me 30 minutes to decide what to wear in the morning because nothing looks good on me anymore (it doesn’t matter if I wore it the week before and received compliments).

There is no “cure” or “treatment”, despite what some magazines will tell you. There are, however, some things you can do to try to alleviate the mood swings a little bit. Here are a few:

The first is all about acceptance — do what you need to do to feel better. If you want to eat chocolate and lie in bed while watching a rom-com, do it! And don’t feel guilty! It’s important to give yourself time to heal and relax. Take a day for yourself and do the things you’ve wanted to do over the last few weeks. Avoid the people in your life who are confrontational. However, if you are feeling especially down, make sure there is someone around you can talk to. Make sure the friend or family member you choose is non-judgemental and can handle the silly freak outs.

Don’t forget to take your supplements! You may be losing some of your body’s natural magnesium, as well as vitamins B and E. Calcium supplements have been said to help alleviate some of the symptoms of PMS like bloating.

In terms of physical activity — yes, it’s true that exercise can relieve stress, anxiety, and boost endorphins, which can improve your mood. But, let’s face it. If I leave the house during days I’m experiencing PMS, that’s a miracle.

Instead, focus on stretching at home. Get a yoga mat and look up a few simple workouts on Youtube. Do some meditation and soft movements. This will help alleviate those pent-up emotions and relax both your mind and body. Go for a nice walk outside if you are able. Nature can have a calming effect and the walk will give you time to come to terms with the emotions you are dealing with. If you feel like doing a bit more, but still would rather avoid the gym, try a Jillian Michaels yoga video (I promise you it is unlike any meditative yoga you’ve done before).

Get creative and make a plan. This is not something recommended by doctors, but it does work for me. Instead of focusing on all of the supposedly terrible decisions I’ve made, I try to think of new good decisions I will make the following week. For example, I will go get some healthy food from the store so that when I’m feeling more up to it, I have the ingredients to do some baking. The whole process of planning important decisions is calming and relaxing — and it makes you feel like something positive is coming from that pesky PMS.

What’s important is to realize that being slightly crazy for a few days of the month is simple biology. It’s normal. So, don’t sweat it. Do what you need to do to get through this tough and uncomfortable time, and then move on! And also don’t listen to Google — it doesn’t understand women like you do.

 

Do you have any suggestions or recommendations to alleviate some of the symptoms of PMS? Leave a note in the comments below!

Why it’s important to challenge yourself

Every once in a while I get this sinking feeling — like I’m not doing enough with my life. I go to work, I come home, and then I lie on the couch for a few hours before I go to bed. The next day, I wake up and it starts all over. It makes me think: is this all there is? Shouldn’t I be doing more with my life? Where can I go from here?

This downward spiral can lead to self doubt, anxiety, and fatigue. It prevents you from actually accomplishing your goals, and makes you feel as if the few things you’ve accomplished aren’t good enough. It’s also incredibly hard to switch off those negative thoughts.

The thing is, it’s completely natural to feel like you’re in a rut. A number of things can cause it: a stale relationship, a ho-hum work environment, or it could be things in your personal life that send you over the edge. Everyone experiences it — but it’s what we do after we realize we’re in a rut that matters.

Peg Streep, author of Mastering the Art of Quitting says the human brain is hardwired to work hard and push through despite what’s happening with your life, which may sabotage your happiness and create a cycle of negative energy. This negative energy is what causes the rut. Overthinking, overworking, not taking time for yourself — all of these things make us tired of the lives we’ve worked so hard to create.

So, what to do about it?

When I start to get into this rut, I decide to challenge myself.  I try something different each time. The first time was 30 days of yoga (I suggest You-tubing Yoga with Adriene, who is an absolutely marvellous instructor, especially for beginners). The second was a video challenge, where I had to film myself every day for a month. The third was training to run a 5k. And this time, it’s trying my hand at poetry.

For me, it’s all about setting, and completing attainable goals — it makes you feel accomplished. It’s like creating a to-do list and then crossing items off. Except, instead of “send email to boss” or “do laundry”, these are life goals. At the same time, they are doable. These goals are tough, but are easy enough to complete within a month or so.  A lot of people will try to set a number of goals to accomplish at the same time (eat right, go to gym three times a week, learn a foreign language, etc ). The problem is that a full body and mind transformation takes a lot of time and patience, and if you aren’t ready for that type of commitment, you’ll just end up overwhelmed and discouraged. Go one challenge at a time and you’ll get to that end-goal, I promise you!

It’s also about pushing yourself slightly outside your comfort zone. Now, I’m not suggesting you leap out of a plane to conquer your fear of heights, but rather take small steps to push yourself in creative and impassioned ways. Understanding what keeps you within your comfort zone is equally as important as pushing yourself outside of it.

For me, running a 5k, doing yoga, writing poetry, all of these are things that are small, simple, and personalized to my specific goals — to be healthy and to develop my creativity. I’m not running a marathon. I’m not becoming a published novelist. I’m not establishing a completely zen mentality. I’m changing, slowly and at the right pace for me. At the same time, I’m challenging myself! I’m not an athletic person, nor a particularly creative one, so these goals really do force me to work hard and carve out time for myself.

At the end of the day, I enjoy these ruts. Sure, they are terrible for the first few weeks while you figure out your feelings, but they inspire creativity and give me an opportunity to re-evaluate my life. And with that creativity comes a new mentality.

Suddenly, anything is possible!

How do you deal with your rut? What are the goals you’ve set for yourself? Let us know in the comments below!

5 fun and creative back-to-school lunch ideas

Making back-to-school lunches can be tedious business. Who wants to eat the same sandwich every day? Instead of falling into those bad (yet speedy) habits, why not start the year with a kick and make fun lunches for your kids can brag about at school. On the first day of school today, my daughter was expecting a sandwich and when I told her on the way to school that she as going to be eating soy chicken nuggets in the shape of dinosaurs, she was so excited. Seeing her smile — that’s what makes the effort worth it.

Pizza Quesadillas
Pizza Quesadillas
  1. Lunchbox Quesadilla Pizza

The homemade quesadilla pizza is an easy meal that kids will love. It is also a simple way to conceal vegetables in your child’s food. Simply fry a tortilla with cheese (or vegan cheese), spread on some pizza sauce, and then place cheese and the desired toppings. Cover with another tortilla. Make sure to flip it and brown on both sides. Pitas or tortillas work well enough for these pizzas (or pizza sandwiches), but homemade dough is also a tasty option enjoyable.

By Evan Amos.
By Evan Amos.
  1. Kid’s trail mix

If you are having a tough time cramming all of the snacks into one single lunchbox (and wasting Ziploc bags), why not mix them all into one container? A kid’s trail mix can be made up of several different options including yogurt raisins, goldfish crackers, grapes, nuts and crackers. This is a fun snack option because you can change it daily, which always makes it a surprise for your child.

GlassOfJuice_and_carrots

  1. Lunch “fun due”

If your child is getting bored of sandwiches (and it is still too hot for warm lunches), a “fun due” is another way to make a creative meal. By tearing up bread into pieces and then providing a variety of dips, it makes a kid-friendly version of a fondue. It is important to make healthy and filling dips, including blending fruits and veggies with almond milk to make a thick sauce that can be dipped into. Include cheese cubes and other finger foods to complete the meal.

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  1. Lady Fruit Face

When I was a child, I loved playing with my food. I even went so far as to melt marshmallows into little statues. For this creative snack idea, take different fruits and make fun fruit faces with them. Using an orange slice as the face, take an carrot stick for the mouth, grapes for the hair and raisins for eyes. Kids love seeing the various creations and it will make them excited to eat fruit and vegetables every day.

Silver_dollar_pancakes

  1. Mini Pancakes with vegetables and fruit

Instead of using lunch foods to make a meal, try a breakfast option instead. Make small pancakes and freeze them. They pair well with fruit. Include a little bit of syrup and several different types of fruits for a well-rounded and yummy meal. Pancakes are also another food that is easy to hide healthy ingredients such as flax seed, zucchini, or chocolate hemp protein powder.

Getting kids to enjoy food can be a difficult task sometimes and making creative lunches helps keep them interested in eating well. Using fun foods as a way to conceal healthy items in lunch is another way to ensure your child keeps their energy up and is excited to eat something fresh every day.

What are you packing in your child’s lunches? Let us know in the comments below!

5 ways to manage stress at work

It can happen to the best of us: you read an email and realize your boss isn’t happy with your work; you made a mistake that costs your company money; you get into an argument with a co-worker over something you know is right. It is enough to make you frustrated, stressed, anxious, and above all else, unhappy.

No matter the job, work can be stressful. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Here are five ways to manage your stress in the workplace:

Don’t respond to your email right away: Businesses are operating in a nearly completely digital world and there is an expectation that everyone should be by their computers or phones 24/7. Just because your phone notifications are buzzing, doesn’t mean you should respond. This is especially true if the email is negative. The problem with email is that the tone of the author is unknown, so people start to imagine possible meanings behind the words written. An email may read negative, but it may be a mere observation or an idea. Take a moment to distract yourself and then return to the email. You may find the message less negative this time and you can craft your response accordingly. If you are really concerned, call or meet the sender in person to discuss their request. That way you can judge the tone for yourself.

Schedule breaks: Everyone does it — works through lunch, stays an hour longer in the evening, or offers to do extra assignments. The “I don’t leave work until my work is done” mentality may be good for productivity, but it isn’t good for your mental health, especially if your goals are set really high. There will always be work to do, so take 15 minutes and go for a walk. Get some coffee, read the news, talk with a friend, or just enjoy the sunshine for a bit. That way, you can return to work refreshed and ready to start your next project.

Breath deeply: Sometimes, you won’t be in a scenario where you can take a walk or wait 15 minutes before reacting to a situation. If you feel your breath getting shorter and your head getting lighter, this could be a sign of stress and/or anxiety. Take a step back (figuratively) and take five deep breaths. If anyone interrupts you, just say you need a minute to gather your thoughts. Then, speak calmly and confidently. Keep your tone neutral if possible. You’ve got this!

Train your body and mind: Exercise, both physical and mental, can help calm the nerves and maintain focus. Doing 20 minutes of yoga or starting your day with a mantra of gratitude can help focus your mind on the tasks you have to do that day, while going for a run or a walk after work (or on your lunch break) can help burn off steam. The body responds to stress in different ways — headaches, stomach aches, and sore muscles are some examples. By keeping your blood moving and dedicating half an hour a day to physical activity, it can help prevent those type of side effects. Not to mention it will keep you in shape.

Try to be more creative: Sometimes it’s not the job, but the job environment that causes stress. Try to make it your own and be more creative with your work. Don’t be afraid to approach your boss with a new idea or project. Most of the time, this gumption will be well received, even if your idea isn’t. When you aren’t at work, do something fun. Simply crashing in front of your television won’t help clear your mind of the activities of the day. Why not try your hand at painting or gardening, read a book, or play a new sport? All of these activities will increase your energy, confidence, and ability to problem solve.

Above all else, remember to be confident in your abilities. It’s okay to make mistakes and to stand up for yourself. It’s also okay to take some time for yourself to ensure you are less stressed and are able to be productive during the hours you do work.

Do you have any tips for relieving stress at work? Let us know in the comments below.

Confessions of A Creative Woman

It’s the top skill discussed in an interview, the ability most highlighted in my resume, and the characteristic I’m most known for by my friends and family. I laugh at my own Instagram captions and marvel at how witty my tweets are. I take an extra 20 minutes to make my meals look presentable only to eat it a few seconds later. The stationary section at Chapters is like my Disneyland and overpriced lattes are my chardonnay.

If I just told your life story, you my friend, are creative. We’re often misunderstood. We’re often ‘self-employed’. But we’re also a lot of other things. So it’s time I sat down and confessed why we are– the way we are.

  1. Our life is an organized chaos

I have a laptop case in my purse without a laptop in it. I have a wallet too, but my debit and credit cards are usually in the side pockets. When I’m hungry, I indulge in the smell of gum wrappers and dig through to find a few tangerines…at least that’s what they used to be.  Give me a ring while my phone is in my bag and I will need at least 3 missed calls before I can pick up. And after a long day of searching and stuffing things in my purse, I like to come home and throw the said purse on my bed, on top of the clothes that I tried on but did not approve of when I got dressed in the morning.

 

You may see a mess, but this space is a reflection of what goes on in my head; an explosion of thoughts and opinions waiting to be organized into smaller, more comprehendible messages. Don’t get me wrong; I put those clothes back in my closet using colour coordinated hangers spaced out to perfection. My credit and debit cards are eventually put in my wallet in each assigned slot. Although we creative people have a hard time keeping organized, we have a process that can’t be interfered with. Picking an outfit, slaying at work, or just getting through the day is all a form of art to us. At the back of our minds, we know that blue tank top is somewhere in the pile of our rejected #ootd. So try to fix our ‘mess’ and we’ll spin out of control.

  1. The snooze button was invented with us in mind.

 

My alarm goes off at 5 a.m. Morning people rejoice at this fact. The birds chirping, the coffee brewing, runners running– it’s a different world, really. However, it’s a world I’m not familiar with. The only reason for my 5 a.m alarm is because it takes me 3 hours to get up in the morning. Creative people can relate to this ‘flaw’ of mine. We are essentially allergic to this part of the day. Why wouldn’t we be? Whether you’re up at night writing your next bestseller, sitting on your floor creating your artistic masterpiece, or just laying in bed thinking about what your next big thing should be, bedtime is no earlier than 2 a.m. Anyone is bound to be a little tired with this type of work ethic. We don’t mind at all, though. Juices flowing, words creating, imaginations wandering– it’s also a very different world. But this time, it’s a world I’m all too familiar with.

  1. Deadlines are impossible to meet.

“Wait, when was that due?” is my catchphrase. Whether I have 3 months, 3 days, or 3 years to finish a project, my prime time to work on it is the night before. The pressure to create something wonderful becomes so significant, it is only at this time when my creative juices start flowing. Missing deadlines is a way of living on the edge. Before this deadline, we almost always ‘lack inspiration’ or have ‘writer’s block.’ As Adam Douglas so accurately said, ”I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.” Managers may have a hard time with this life motto of ours, and although we apologize for the inconvenience, we can’t really help it. So the best advice we can give is to embrace the fact that a deadline is really the official date for us to ‘get started.’

  1. We have impeccable fashion sense.

Style. Everyone has one. Yes, fine; sweatpants and hoodies are a form of style as well. If that’s what you feel confident in, then you work those grey palettes! Basically, you have your Britney Spears and you have your Taylor Swifts. Us Swifties (is that what they call themselves?) like red lipstick, dresses, and Pinterest-worthy hair. Our wardrobe is well thought out and requires hours and hours of hard work – and shopping. We think through every little detail, from the colours to the accessories to our shoes. You may not notice, but the neon coloured fringe of my earring matches the tip of my shoes. Unfortunately, we’re often shunned because of the effort we put in into looking good before walking out onto a dirty, smelly sidewalk.

 

Personally, the effort I put into my appearance isn’t because I look forward to strangers asking me where I got my pants from. I don’t want to tell you where I got my pants from. Because that would put me at risk of being unoriginal. Although it is flattering that people are interested in my fashion sense, the clothes I wear, to me, isn’t fashion. It’s a statement. Whether its putting on a maxi dress to showcase my free spirit or toughening up in a leather jacket to show my edgier side, my attire is my personality. I want you to see it. I need you to see it. Creative people don’t have to tell you they’re creative, you know. You’ll figure it out as soon we step out in front of you.

  1. Our friends have deemed us the quirky one.

Sometimes I’m the life of the party. Other times, I’m the girl in the corner, observing what’s going on around me. “She’s in one of her moods.” I often hear my friends say. I find it rather difficult to identify as an extrovert or introvert. But fear not fellow Lost Souls, this is a mere sign that you’re a woman of a creative nature. You see, we don’t have a work-life balance. Our work is our life. Our life is our work.

 

The conversations I have with my mom, that strange encounter I had at the coffee shop, thoughts I have while showering; it all factors in to the work I produce. So the next time we’re hanging out and I seem to be in a daze, it’s because I’m thinking of how to incorporate what just happened into my next story. Or I’m redecorating your living room in my head. Or I’m hungry and wondering why I haven’t been offered food yet. The possibilities are endless.

Creativity. It’s a beautiful thing.

 

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