Tag

toronto

Browsing

Real life real estate

I’m a sucker for real estate reality television. Property Virgins, House Hunters, and 2 a.m. reruns of the Property Shop – I live for these shows, and always love watching couples and families go through the highest of highs, the lowest of lows, all to finally find the property of their dreams, and right on budget too.

As a real estate agent though, sometimes I have to giggle at how easy it seems. House showings to key pickup, all wrapped up in a 22 minute time slot. Of course, with the time limitations, there isn’t enough time to get into the intricacies of a normal, average real estate transaction, but I imagine that most viewers who haven’t actually been through the process might romanticize the experience with the information provided on these shows.

In the real world, the process can take months. Buyers have to talk to financial professionals to apply and qualify for financing or a mortgage, and then find the right agent with knowledge of their circumstances, their needs, and the area that they’re looking to purchase in. Then there are the house showings. On television, they show three houses and decide between the given options. I’ve had clients go on as many as 15 showings before deciding on a property, and rightly so. This is not a pair of shoes, this is a home, for families with children, dogs named Rover and cats named Meow. While timing can be of the essence when it comes to getting your home once you’ve decided on a property, finding the right home for you is a process that in my opinion shouldn’t be rushed or double-guessed.

Even after getting an approved offer, we’re often not ready to pick up the keys just yet. Accepted offers are usually “conditional”, meaning we now have to deal with home inspectors, appraisals, and final steps for financing. Your dream home might end up being a nightmare property if an inspector turns up foundation issues or termites, so there’s usually a period of time when a buyer can walk away from a property.

But I’ve seen firsthand how these shows have affected the real estate market in a very real way. Buyers and sellers are more educated now, and real estate professionals have been forced to step up their game. Sellers understand the value of “curb appeal” and not having animals or dirty laundry in the home during showings. Buyers are learning to see past superficial things like bad paint colours and minor improvements to see how a home can be made to fit them. Knowledge is power, and in the real estate game it can be the difference between a make or break deal.

All in all, these shows, by necessity due to timing and probably in large part entertainment, are condensed versions of what to expect when you’re purchasing a property. I take whatever lessons I can from real estate powerhouses like Tatiana Londono, but in the end, I really just take it for what it is: entertainment. Good, clean, funny, exciting, licorice and white cheddar popcorn on a Thursday night entertainment, and I love every second.

Parental seal of approval

Last Friday I finally made the parental introduction. Mr. Unexpected and I joined my mum and her husband for dinner on King West.

As we walked from my condo to the restaurant I could feel my heart pounding; I’ve never wanted my mum to like someone so much in my life and I honestly didn’t know how it would go. But when we arrived at the restaurant all of my nerves and fear melted away as Boyfriend fell into an easy rhythm and immediately got along with both my mum and her husband.

At one point Boyfriend looked at me and just said, “Get over it,” in reference to something silly. It made my mum howl because according to her if my brother ever told me to just, “Get over it” I would probably deck him. This is mostly true except that my little brother is about 9 inches taller than me and a rugby player and I’m about 100% sure I’d lose that fight.

A lot of our dinner conversation revolved around a new job that I’ve recently accepted and the support coming from both my mum, her husband and Boyfriend made me feel like I’ve finally got the family I’ve always wanted. Because my mum only remarried last year we don’t refer to her husband as our stepdad, but he’s more loving and supportive that my birth father ever was and I think that stems from his deep love for my mother. Their relationship is the kind I want for myself. I never once looked at my parents and thought “I want that,” because things were never that good, but looking at my mum and how happy she is now I finally understand what people with happy parents were saying – I want what they have.

But the best part of the whole dinner was the email that came from my mum a few days later letting me know how happy she was, how proud of me she was and how nice it was to see me with someone who is good for me and good to me. Boyfriend and I complement each other but because I’m in it sometimes I forget that, so it’s nice to hear from someone on the outside that we work well together.

I was nervous for nothing, I was afraid for nothing; I was a complete spaz for nothing because in the end introducing someone I love to my mum felt good and right. I wanted her to love him and she does – because according to her he’s lovely, kind and charming none of that was relayed to him though; I don’t want him to get a big head.

Now that he has every possible approval necessary, my best friend, my mum and boy bestie I think it’s time that I start calling him Boyfriend here officially instead of Mr. Unexpected. He was unexpected in October, he was a complete surprise, but now he’s earned the Boyfriend title. And while he still surprises me daily mostly I just realize exactly how lucky I am to have found someone who isn’t perfect but is perfect for me.

The Fords go to Hollywood

In a surprising turn of events Rob Ford, Toronto’s ‘sort-of Mayor,’ has been invited to attend the 86th Academy Awards and appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live! In a not so surprising turn of events the Mayor has accepted the invitation.

Torontonians should be reminded this is a man who announced just a few days ago on his YouTube show, Ford Nation, that he does not consider himself to be a celebrity. He assured viewers that he is just an average work-a-day schmoe. All that stuff about being the Mayor of North America’s fourth largest city and having mega-stars Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon discuss his antics on The Tonight Show; pfft!

Joining Rob Ford will be Doug Ford, the soon-to-be former councillor for Ward 2, three political staffers, and Randy Ford who’s the third and usually far more subtle of the Ford brothers. This is where Torontonians would be advised to begin asking Ford questions. First, who is paying for this little trip?

Rob Ford has long claimed to be a fighter for the taxpayer: the little guy. However, his record of tax increases in conjunction with service cuts tells a very different story. So too, has his tendency to utilize city funds for personal projects since being elected mayor.

Further, Torontonians would be advised to ask if this is really the kind of individual they wish to represent them. The election of Ford in 2010 can be forgiven. However, since then Ford has openly admitted to purchasing crack cocaine while being mayor, associated with known members of gangs and those involved in organized crime, and used publicly defamatory and vulgar phrasing unbefitting of the office he holds. What’s more is he has shown absolutely no remorse nor attempted to reform of his actions. Is this really the international face you want of Toronto?

With a new mayor, Toronto his the potential to be world class. With Rob Ford at the helm, we’re left as an international punch line.

It is time for us to take the situation seriously. A number of qualified candidates have come forward, and I think more candidates will make themselves now as the mayoral race progresses. It’s imperative Torontonians realize the absolute necessity for change at City Hall.

So, is Rob Ford just your average Joe?

That depends. Does your average Joe attend the Oscars, appear on late-night talk shows, and own an unspecified number of properties that happen to include an international corporation?

Follow Jordan on Twitter at @JordanAGlass.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

What did Doug Ford just say?

Following the unfortunate comments by John Tory regarding women receiving equal pay for equal work, Doug Ford came out of the woodwork to attack his brother’s potential adversary.

Doug Ford, the Ward 2 city councillor and campaign manager for Doug Ford, criticized the former leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservatives as “chauvinistic” and referred to Tory as “one of the elites of the 1%.”

For those who may have forgotten, Councillor Ford is the millionaire former chief executive officer of the multinational company his father founded. To call him a member of the infamous ‘1%’ would be an understatement. However, what is most intriguing about Councillor Ford’s comments is that he is a self-professed capital-C Conservative. This is a constituency that has long rejected the language of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Could this exemplify a change of direction in the Rob Ford campaign?

Probably not.

The Fords, while loudly identifying as huge-C Conservatives, have never really moulded policy on a traditional left-right spectrum. They continue to call for lower taxes and smaller government despite introducing the largest tax increase in Toronto’s history and expanding the city’s budget. They continue to express support for low-income Torontonians despite continuing to make cuts to services those same Torontonians depend on.

Such is the contradiction of populism. Perhaps this is why, during the days of their radio show, the Fords endorsed the Progressive Conservative candidate in Vaughan and the New Democratic candidate in Kitchener during concurrent provincial byelections.

However, such language can only take the Fords so far. Under the scrutiny of a full-blown election, Torontonians will see the Fords for what they are: liars.

Despite their statements to the contrary, the Fords are the elite of Toronto politics. They are the inner circle of power.

Whether it is through John Tory, David Soknocki, or someone else, the Fords will eventually be exposed as those willing to say and do anything to cling to power.

Follow Jordan on Twitter at @JordanAGlass.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Living by the 80/20 rule

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that so much of life these days is about “more “: do more, live more, work more, be even more than what everyone expects. One hundred percent is not quite enough.

I have seen this, too, in how some people approach their diet, or in how they think they need to be approaching changes toward a healthier lifestyle. There is merit in being able to embrace a lifestyle concept entirely and live by it with full force but it is a rare individual who can go cold turkey from old habits. It can be quite stressful to do a complete overhaul; rebound binges may occur and guilt becomes yet another emotional hurdle to overcome. It can also be socially restrictive, preventing someone from being able to enjoy an evening out at a restaurant or at a friend’s house for dinner.

I like to support the 80/20 rule of living, especially when it comes to diet. The idea is that most of the time (this can be anywhere from 80% to 95% for a given period of time), I eat very nutrient-dense, clean food such as organic produce, cold-water fish that is simply prepared, and creative vegan meals. For a meat-eater this may also include organically-raised chicken or grass-fed beef. I stay hydrated with filtered water or herbal teas—my current favourite is Tulsi/Holy Basil. I can honestly say that I really enjoy eating this way and I certainly feel better for it. Over years of steady transition from what is the Standard (North) American Diet, my palate has adapted so that these foods are what I crave most.

The other 5-20% of the time, I am able to enjoy some of life’s indulgences. Here’s my confession:  the neighbourhood bakery makes really delicious, sinful brownies so I treat myself to one every month or so. I relish times spent with friends over some wine and a meal that they have lovingly prepared. There are also those nights, usually once a week, when neither my husband nor I are in the mood to prepare a meal so a local restaurant serves up a nice break from cooking.

The catch of course is being honest with yourself about on which side of the dividing line your choices lie. Is your 80/20 more of a 60/40 right now? That’s okay. As long as you know what your goals are and what your true starting point is, you can get to 80/20 by making small, steady changes over time. Then you CAN have your small piece of cake and eat it too.

 

 

 

 

Book review: Where Chefs Eat

4/5 stars

Where Chefs Eat: A Guide To Chefs’ Favorite Restaurants is the ultimate foodie reference guidebook and is perfect for traveling. It is an easy read and very organized. You can read the book front to back or search a specific city. I prefer front to back since I discovered Morton’s The Steakhouse listed under Shanghai, but if you can’t travel, you can always find it in Toronto and use the recommendation.

The chefs are introduced with a brief biography and you are told the meaning of specific categories. For example, they define the budget for you. The chefs are well-known and established. They include Marcus Samuelsson, Daniel Boulud, Hugh Acheson, and many more. The book itself is divided by continent and a map is provided for each section. Every restaurant says who recommended it and they specify the area in the city for ease. In addition, they always provide the website and a reservation e-mail if it is needed. Each page contains a quote from the chef and mouth-watering food descriptions. The restaurants are not all well known and allow readers to discover hidden gems in their own city or abroad. Where Chefs Eat also comes with a yellow bookmark, which is a nice addition.

Although I was very impressed with this book, I wish that every restaurant had quotes from the chef and a brief description of the atmosphere, dishes and chefs. I feel that more detail would have improved the book.

Where Chefs Eat also has an iPhone and iPad app that was released in May. If you prefer to have your smartphone while traveling rather than carrying a book, this is a very practical idea. This is one of the few books that has an app.

Overall, I thought that this was a great book. At 643 pages, it is massive and features varied cuisine that is sure to fulfill any taste bud or craving while traveling. Instead of relying on internet reviews, the chefs have authority in the industry and recommend restaurants for any budget. They even include restaurants that the chefs wish they’d opened. This is the perfect travel companion for summer.

1. Going social – My epiphany

This article was originally published January 29, 2013.

How it was for me…

A few months ago, ‘Social Media’ was a foggy acronym for internet dialogue. I had used Facebook to reconnect with old classmates and distant family members. I even created a LinkedIn page, after being peppered with connect requests from business colleagues. I did not, however, blog, Tweet, Insta-anything, Pinterest or utilize any social media tools to promote my business interests. Not until I was given a little push.

My cousin was surprised to learn I was blog-less. “Who better to blog than a Mompreneur who is also a writer?” That push got me sliding towards my first blog.

The defining moment…

After decades of business writing, my creative writing skills needed refreshing. Three of my short stories had been published through traditional channels, but I needed a medium that offered full control over the topics and style. More importantly, I wanted the ability to collect valuable feedback quickly. Blogging seemed to make sense, but how did it differ from any other website content?

‘Blogging’ has a number of official definitions. The name ‘blog’ comes from the term ‘web log’, suggesting a journal of topical content on the internet. Over time, blogging has morphed into a form of business content marketing, enabling low cost promotion of a company’s products and/or services.

I began writing the blog to explore my voice as a writer, and gauge if blogging could become a new stream of revenue. In the planning process, I asked myself some key questions:

1. What do I have to say?

2. Who cares?

3. How do I reach them?

From researching other blogs, it became clear that I needed social media skills to pull readers to my content. ‘Going social’ would not only be critical in order to create a solid blog following, but an absolute requirement to return to my corporate marketing roots. I was surprised to learn about management positions called “CSO=chief social officer” and “SMM=social media manager”. These titles did not exist a decade ago when I was director of sales and marketing for a software company.

How it will be…

I began a strategy to create a social media presence. It is scary to dive into the unknown, especially on the internet, where words live forever in a cloud of privacy settings that can be particular and confusing. I’m focused on the knowledge that taking a risk can also be exhilarating and rich in rewards. Throughout my career I followed the mantra “better to make a mistake and learn than do nothing at all”. There can be no result without action.

It’s time for me to dive it and ‘get social’. My decades of sales and marketing knowhow are extremely valuable, but knowledge is stagnant without action. I take a deep breath and

…. I-go-social.

 

Next column: Adventures in Blogging

How tacky is it to sell things on Facebook?

We’ve all seen it.

“Hey, I was cleaning out my closet and itemised, catalogued, and photographed all of this stuff to be sold. Oh maaaaaaaan, there sure is some good stuff here!”

Maybe you’ve even been the one doing it.

“Hm, instead of donating all this old crap I could make a few quick bucks. Stacy did say she liked this top after all. And it was fifty bucks new when I bought it in 2009. I suppose there is no harm in making an album and selling a few things, right?”

Wrong.

My mother used to drag us around to yard sales on every spring and summer weekend looking for deals. On the right kind of day you’d see half a dozen just driving to the grocery store. We would stop at every single one and then stop again on the way back to get the things she wasn’t sure about the first time we were there.

There is a dignity associated with the yard sale. This is a family, couple, or person who has come to the end of their spring or summer cleaning and actually just has a bunch of stuff to get rid of. They’ve thrown it all out on the lawn and put a kid with a tin box on the hopes of scrounging up four dollars for their once priceless CD collection, or maybe a quarter for a Rocko’s Modern Life colouring book that is half finished.

By the end of the day the afternoon are mostly empty and you have to go knock on the door to get their attention. By supper time they’ve given up, folded up the card tables, and thrown everything left into a hamper with “FREE STUFF” written on a poorly torn piece of cardboard in front of it. Game over. They participated in the time honoured tradition of the yard sale whereby you are granted no more than eight hours a year in which you can shamelessly grub for money from your friends and neighbours for stuff that is worth little more than it’s kitsch value.

Although it exists in the digital world, Facebook peddling is still a violation of this ancient suburban rule.

Remember that one yard sale that was just a little ways out of town that would be going on all year? You stopped and looked a few times and it was the same old crates of coke bottles and dog eared Danielle Steele novels every time. The reason you felt uncomfortable at these extended yard sales, aside from the pitbull chained to the tree in the lawn, was because you already understood that they were violating this code.

In your mother’s generation it was Tupperware parties or AmWay that violated The Rule by trapping friends, family, and neighbours into situations where they felt obligated to buy something to avoid the risk of being rude to someone close. No one enjoyed this, save for perhaps the person without social skill who pinned them there.

Today we have Facebook peddlers to fill this role by trying to run their apartments as if they were stores. Let me be the one to tell you that whatever money you may gain is most likely lost tenfold in respect from your peers. If you need the money so badly you should try and sell it on Craigslist or at a pawn shop.

But they won’t give me a decent price for it on Craigslist or at a pawn shop. 

Then you can’t get a decent price for it, and expecting your friends to pay more doesn’t put then in a very high regard. If you can’t find a decent price for it then donate it to a non-profit drive like Goodwill or a local church

But this is too nice to be donated to some stranger.

Then donate it to your friends. In addition to saving your friends from feeling obligated or uncomfortable by seeing your used clothes tick by in their newsfeeds you’re saving yourself the social disgrace of being considered tacky.

Bottom line: If it’s still good keep it, if you can get a buck sell it to a stranger, if you can’t then give it away.

Is the Happy Hotdog Man the perfect this-makes-me-gag gift?

When you give someone a gift, it’s important to remember that they will look for the meaning behind it. I think making associations is a good thing to do, and a good way to get ideas for the perfect gift.  For example, a blender is a great gift for someone who loves to make smoothies, an iPod is perfect for someone who loves music, and a gift basket full of body lotion is a great way to tell someone that you forgot about their birthday until four hours ago.

You know the feeling: you give the person their gift, they give you yours and suddenly you realize that gag gift from late night TV isn’t as funny as you thought it was. Maybe they got you something deeply personal or romantic, and you got them some “hilarious” infomercial product, like The Happy Hot Dog Man.

Is everyone familiar with The Happy Hot Dog Man? If not, I’ve included the video below for your viewing pleasure. The Happy Hot Dog Man solves one particular problem: how can we get kids to eat more hot dogs? Go ahead, treat yourself.

Isn’t that amazing?  I thought I already owned a Happy Hot Dog Man, but in my house we call it a knife.

I’ve also never been to a party where “bringing ordinary hot dogs to life” has been an activity.  The little girl was just gushing about how you can cut them like girls and boys and decorate them, and I know you were thinking the same thing as me: she really needs to get some better toys.

Gift giving is like an art form on its own, and it is a very tricky one to master. Go for the thoughtful, creative gifts over the late night infomercials, no matter how tempting they are after the fourth glass of wine. Am I right? Anybody? Whatever.