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Book review: The Happy Baker

4.6/5 stars

My first impression of The Happy Baker: A Dater’s Guide to Emotional Baking was that it was a very approachable book for a non-baker. Erin Bolger begins with a memorable disclaimer quote that states, “If any of my recipes are low-fat I’m sorry, it was unintentional.”

She has cute names for her baking recipes and beautiful photographs. Some recipe names include ‘Who Needs a Man on Valentine’s Day Biscotti’ and ‘You Can Kiss My Triple Decker Carrot Cake Goodbye’. The names certainly aren’t boring. Erin has separated her book into four distinct chapters. Throughout The Happy Baker, she has chick lit stories followed by a recipe that relates to the story. There are illustrations of her and her past dates or boyfriends relating to the story. The stories cover speed dating, breakups over text or e-mail, the first kiss, and many more. Erin’s personality shines through.

In order to fairly evaluate The Happy Baker, I had to get into the kitchen and bake. Her recipes are easy and most of the ingredients are found in your home (you may have to buy one or two ingredients). I decided to make ‘Erin’s Go-To Cookie’, ‘Goodbye Men, Hello Dolly Squares’ and ‘My Eggs Are Not Getting Any Younger Crème Brûlée’. Each of the recipes that I made provided me with a large quantity so the time and the effort are well worth it.

The crème brûlée was rich and creamy. The cookies and dolly squares were buttery and greasy, but delicious. They were so popular that when I opened the covered plate laying on the counter, they were all gone. I ended up eating some of the cookies and dolly squares from the freezer and they were just as good cold. Don’t hesitate to put some of Erin’s recipes in the freezer, you may be in for a pleasant surprise.

I found that the recipes were simple, easy, decadent and, of course, delicious. The Happy Baker is killer comfort food. Erin was honest and upfront when she said these recipes were unhealthy. As a non-baker myself, I was able to bake recipes that I probably wouldn’t have ever made.

This is not your average cookbook since it is filled with unique stories and recipes. She has even provided a few non-bake recipes.

If you’re ever in Bayfield, Ontario be sure to check out Erin’s new business, The Pink Flamingo Bakery and Boutique.

Women of the week: Sandra Dawes

One look at the Twitter feed of Sandra Dawes says it all. The stream of inspirational mantras reflect the bubbly, inspirational personality of this motivated and focused professional life coach just as much as the glimmer of hope and inspiration that comes through in her smile. Sandra Dawes is a woman who has a brain for business and a compassionate heart for her clients.

Sandra, born in Toronto and currently calling Mississauga home, has been at the helm of Embrace Your Destiny life coaching since November 2009 and hasn’t stopped looking onward and upward since then, even finding inspiration in the tragic passing of her father.

“After my dad died I thought that life would never be the same – and it hasn’t been, but not in the negative way I had originally thought. I’ve become more self-aware and confident about the person that I am and what I can accomplish,” she explains on the topic of how far she has come to be the woman she is today.

“I never thought I would enjoy speaking to large groups of people, yet now I enjoy doing talks where I can share my experiences and the tools that I use to overcome many of life’s obstacles,” says Sandra, showing us that she certainly has learned the secrets to self-improvement and betterment within herself and is anxious to share her story with others.

By opening herself up to the power of possibility she has taken her life’s adventure across the globe and back. “Life has definitely taken me to some interesting places,” says Sandra. “Both in my journey of self-discovery and literally, I have been able to visit places such as Europe, Central America, and the Caribbean.”

For Sandra Dawes balancing her life is important, and with family, friends, and one furry critter at her side it all seems to fall into place. “My partner is also an entrepreneur, which is great because he is the one who encouraged me to start my own business, and he understand the ups and downs that come with being self-employed,” she explains. “I also have a 7-year-old dog who is a great teacher on how to enjoy the simple things in life.”

As a woman in the business world she certainly has seen both sides of the coin. “I believe that women connect on a level that goes beyond the bottom line,” she says in regards to the unique position women hold as entrepreneurs. “We are more heart-centred about the relationships we build, even on a business level. I think this type of relationship allows for more focus on cooperation rather than competition as we look to encourage one another.”

She’s even seen a changing landscape for women like herself she entered the entrepreneurial world. “I believe that more women are stepping outside the comfort of a nine-to-five job and follow their dreams.”

“I do believe that it is possible for women to have it all when they aspire for greatness,” she says in regards to her own achievements so far and the fabric of support in her life that has helped her dreams become reality. “The key is to recognise that we can’t do it alone and it is okay to ask for help, whether it is from friends, family, or industry colleagues.”

As for her own business, Embrace Your Destiny, she’s confident that she has the perfect edge to help you unlock all of your potential. “I believe that I am able to use the experiences and what I’ve gained from my own journey to help others achieve their goals and realise their dreams,” she tells us.

“I go beyond just being an accountability partner and challenge my clients to really step out of their comfort zones and shift their mindset. We can be our own worst enemy or our own biggest cheerleader. I help my clients to question the beliefs they have that tell them what they want isn’t possible and help them reframe those beliefs so that they can that they realise that they really can live the life they’ve always wanted and that they deserve it!”

Sandra has one bit of advice to give to every woman. “Listen to your intuition and don’t overthink or over-analyse things too much,” she says. “If you’re looking for an excuse not to follow your dreams, you will find one.”

 

Follow Sandra Dawes on Twitter at @SandraDawes, and visit Embrace Your Destiny online at www.embraceurdestiny.com.

Toronto’s not broken just bent

Amid the scandal and smoke that swirls around city hall it is good to know there are some people and organizations in Toronto who push forward to tackle the real issues holding back our city. Credit should be given to organizations like the Toronto Transit Alliance for the work they are doing to educate and inform Toronto area residents of the need to come together and build a great city.

 

Be sure to follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

Running with allergies

For some runners it may be challenging enough running in perfect conditions, let alone having to cope with allergies, which can make breathing difficult and turn a routine run into a tortuous test of will.

There is good news, however, for allergy sufferers: their condition may now be controlled and prevented if necessary steps are taken. After suffering for long enough I decided to visit my doctor to learn which medications would be most suitable. I was diagnosed with Rhinitis (Hay fever) and was prescribed Flonase (nasal spray) and told to take an antihistamine before the workout, which certainly helped to make my running experience more enjoyable.

A recent survey commissioned by Johnson & Johnson suggests up to 10 million Canadians may suffer from allergy symptoms. The survey found that more than a quarter say they’ll limit their outdoor time to prevent the onset of symptoms. Allergy season may start early in spring but can last into fall as the combination of climate change and pollen counts leads to expanded sneezing, wheezing, and gasping.

The main culprits tend to be pollen, ragweed and grass. Sometimes not knowing we have allergies can affect our work and personal lives, as well as our best intentions of getting fit and staying healthy. Often mistaken for a common cold, it is treatable if one knows the symptoms, which may include nasal congestion, itchy and watery eyes.

Speaking with Dr. Jack Taunton, who was Chief Medical Officer for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, he mentions certain regions across North America are harsher than others when it comes to allergies. “Did you know,” he asks, “that Eugene, Oregon isn’t the best place to run for people with allergies?” Dr. Taunton also includes the west coast of British Columbia as a particularly troublesome place for allergy sufferers because of vast forested areas and voluminous species of plants and grasses.

Dr. Taunton suggests various foods, such as strawberries, some vegetables, dust and pet dander, may trigger an allergic reaction, adding, “Some triathletes are even allergic to certain types of chlorine in the pool,” also showing that for some unlucky people there is no escape. He suggests seeing an allergist when symptoms become difficult to manage.

To summarize, your allergies are caused by the environment or certain foods and the best we can do is try to manage the situation.

So what can you do to enjoy your workouts more? “Try breathing more through your mouth,” says Dr. Taunton. Try running when the pollen counts are lowest (check the weather report) and wear sunglasses to prevent itchy watery eyes. Avoid running in trails or parks at the most dangerous times (for your allergies). Before your workout, take an antihistamine. Allergy shots may be the answer and I’ve heard green tea may help provide relief. If unsure, pay a visit your doctor first to find out if you do suffer from an allergy condition.

 

LISTEN: We love the new Miley and so do you

We are in love with the new Miley Cyrus track We Can’t Stop. WE can’t stop — listening to this tune!

It sounds like Miley is borrowing a bit of Kanye a vibe from the backing synth, and the breakdown in the middle sounds like something taken directly from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. She had some amazing dance tracks on her last album, Can’t Be Tamed, and hopefully the trend continues in her latest effort with the synth-pop.

Wait, does she say she’s ‘trying to get a line in the bathroom’  at 1:53? Uh oh. Oh well, child stars gotta rebel sometime.

In the meantime it looks like we have at least one new song to add to our patio playlist this summer.

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter for all the latest in Miley Cyrus obsession @WomensPost.

INVESTMENT BUG: The pros and cons of purchasing an investment property

We’re nearing the end of the second quarter now, and the real estate market is holding steady! And with more and more people looking at ways to invest their money and get the most for their return, I’ve had a few calls from clients considering investing their money in investment properties. I know from personal experience that the return on this type of investment can be great, and is definitely a great way to diversify your investment portfolio with an investment that will likely increase over time and pay for itself in monthly rental income, but I also know firsthand that the process isn’t as glamorous as it may come across on all our favourite real estate reality TV shows.

Firstly, let me make the difference between flipping properties, which has been popularized in the last few years, and owning an investment property. “Flipping” a property refers to the common practice of purchasing a “fixer-upper” property below market value with the intention of fixing it up to raise the value and re-selling in a relatively short period of time for a profit.

Owning an investment property that you plan to hold on to long term can be anything from purchasing a condo, duplex, triplex, building, etc. with the intention of renting out the unit or units on an ongoing basis.

If you’re looking at purchasing an investment property for the first time, it may be worth noting that most lenders won’t approve financing for properties of more than four units. So purchasing a triplex to rent out may be a good start, but maybe save the three-story low rise until you’re a little more experienced. Most lenders will require a minimum of 20% down, and if you’re looking to avoid mortgage insurance premiums, it might be worth it to put down more. Throw in land transfer taxes and closing costs, and you’ll see why it becomes super important to know your numbers and be sure of what your upfront expenses are going to be.

When it comes to tenants, I have one golden rule for all of my clients: you need the RIGHT tenant, not a tenant RIGHT NOW. In Ontario, the laws are usually on the side of the tenant, so do your background and pay the $29.99 for a credit check to cover your bases. If you don’t have a thick skin, develop one, quick! Complaints will come and you’ll need to know your tenants’ rights and your rights as well.

Be prepared for maintenance costs and repairs. Be prepared to put in work. Get yourself an agent who has knowledge of the type of investment property you’re looking to get into and who knows the area enough to work with you through area rental rates and capitalization rates. If you arm yourself with the right team and proper guidance, it could be the best financial decision you ever make.

 

Follow Chellie on Twitter at @ChellieMejia and Women’s Post at @WomensPost

RELAX: The power of baths

Growing up, my family considered baths to be the best treatment for everything from sore muscles to broken hearts. A quick shower before work or school was common; however, it was far less appealing than evening baths. Following a rough day, a stressful exam or a long, uncomfortable bout of the flu, baths were the go-to cure. This power to heal both body and mind was instilled in me from a young age and has stuck with me into adulthood.

While undeniably relaxing, baths have a beneficial detoxifying effect as well. As you sweat in the warm water, built-up toxins are cleared from your system. Once your body has removed these toxins, it will then soak up and benefit from any minerals added to the water. Furthermore, detox baths have been known to lower blood pressure, help with circulation and ease muscle pain.

Here is a great detox bath recipe to get you started:

  • 2 cups Epsom salts (I prefer lavender scented ones for added relaxation)
  • 2 tablespoons of ground ginger (this opens pores and increases body temperature, causing more toxins to be released)
  • 1 cup of baking soda (the alkaline helps to pull toxins from the body)
  • optional: essential oils of your choice

Since you are losing hydration through sweating, it is important to drink plenty of water both during and after the bath. I like to do this about once a week, especially during the winter months. Typically I stay in the bath for around 40 minutes.

It is important to be cautious when in hot water, especially if you have any medical conditions related to blood pressure or if you are pregnant. Consult a doctor before starting a detox bath ritual.

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter for all the latest in bath time and de-stressing: @WomensPost

Monday blues? Here’s a baby skunk to cheer you up

Mondays can be rough, but nothing is cheerier than seeing a baby pet skunk desperate for some love from his adopted mom.

The little guy, Jasper, can’t get enough of him mom’s toes as he whines to be picked up.

Jasper even has his own Facebook page, written in the first person of course, where he details his adventures as a house-skunk. Check out more videos of Jasper on S Decker‘s YouTube channel.

 

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter for all the latest news in adorable animals. @WomensPost

5 amazing tweets from the Toronto Public Library

While we already love the Toronto Public Library for providing us the great service of free knowledge, many people don’t know just how above and beyond TPL goes to make the citizens of this fair city happy.

They already offer a gay literary speed dating program where members of the LGBTQQ community can show up with their favourite book, CD, or DVD to chat with other people about their favourite narrative and, just maybe, discover love. The concept behind this program is absolutely amazing. It’s also hosted right by my house, so if you wind up there and see someone holding a tattered copy of Watchmen come say hi.

TPL also offers a 24/7 Dial-A-Story service where kids can dial in and have a story read to them in 15 different languages, helping kids to feel comfortable and learn even when mom and dad can’t help. Certainly better than kids getting babysat by the TV, that’s for sure.

TPL also has someone fantastic running their Twitter feed. Here are five of the best tweets to come down the pipe recently. We love TPL for…

…The Phrase “If Shakespeare were a hipster”

…Keeping things steamy at the library

…Knowing where to find an owner’s manual for the USS Enterprise

…Asking us the worst mothers we can think of on Mother’s Day

…Helping us figure out how to be a cat

Be sure to follow @TorontoLibrary on Twitter for more literary updates — and follow @WomensPost and @TravMyers while you’re at it.

Anniversaries

Last weekend Boyfriend and I went out for brunch because that’s what Toronto couples do on Sundays. I made a joke about neither of us knowing our actual anniversary, which I thought was funny until he told me that he actually did know when it was. I assumed that he was teasing but then he passed me his phone which has a reminder on September 20th that it is our anniversary.

It’s really the little things that matter and the fact that he not only remembered our first date but bothered to include it in his calendar blew me away.

The last anniversary I can remember was with the Big Ex and by that point he was already cheating – when I texted to say “happy anniversary” I didn’t even receive a response. We broke up a couple weeks later. So to find out that Boyfriend is already assuming that we’ll make it through this anniversary and the next makes me smile in that dorky I’m-so-in-love kind of way.

When you’re happy you don’t need to rush; if things are going to work out then you can take your time getting there and enjoy all the little milestones. We have an anniversary coming up in September and there’s a lot to enjoy between now and then: summer cottages, BBQs with friends, concerts, beach days and road trips.

In Toronto couples have a tendency to move too quickly. They move in together before they’re ready to because rent is high, they let their relationships move at the pace of the city and lose each other in the rush. I just want to keep getting to know Boyfriend, keep falling in love and keep finding out new things about each other.

But as much as I love taking things somewhat slowly, because there’s no need to rush when you know things are right, I also love that he knows when our anniversary is. It makes me blush, it makes me feel like a total girl for enjoying it and it makes me smile.

I’ve said this before (and I’m probably going to keep saying it) but I’ve never had a relationship that wasn’t plagued with one problem or another. I’ve never had a boy care enough about me to put me in a calendar. I’ve always been the one who cares the most in a relationship and it’s amazing to feel like a real partner rather than a girl with a crush begging for attention from someone you’re supposed to be dating.

I didn’t remember our anniversary but I do remember our first kiss, I remember the first time he held my hand, I remember the first time he made me dinner, I remember that when I was waiting for a job offer he was the one who told me a million times that I didn’t need to worry. It’s the moments that I remember because it’s the moments that make us work. I can’t wait to see what happens next, and because it’s finally summer I kind of hope it involves a patio or a beach.