Less concrete jungle more trees, please. — June 21, 2015

Less concrete jungle more trees, please.

As a non-Canadian, when you think ‘Canada’ many wild and wonderful things come to mind. Largely the legendary outdoors, forests, hiking, nature.
But you can be forgiven for forgetting all of this and more, when living in Toronto. Now I get that Toronto is a city and not The Muskokas, but it is still seriously lacking green, open spaces, often found in other major cities, such as London, England or Paris, France.
In fact, it’s pretty remarkable that such a new city has lacked the foresight of urban planning, which if done correctly, would help make Toronto look and feel more balanced and less concrete jungle. But fear not, you don’t have to sit back and watch another condo shoot in-to the air. There are plenty of ways for you to get your voice heard so that Toronto can indeed, be more green.
Before I get too many backs up, I do need to acknowledge that there are a number of beautiful open spaces in Toronto. Take Trinity Bellwoods for instance. This park has a tonne on offer, from tennis to hockey, dog parks to picnics. Take your pick in this community hub and enjoy restoring your inner-calm.
However, if you’re living in the outer suburbs, then good luck. These areas lack the same kinds of green space amenities, often found in the city’s central areas. If you are living in a higher density area, with decade old city planning strategies, then you’re probably missing out.
What to do? Get involved in your community and be the change so that Toronto can get closer to being a green, liveable city that nurtures creativity and opportunity for all.
How-to? Connect with City Planning and find out how you can get involved and make a difference, locally. Really passionate and want to go one step further? Your City Chief Planner and Executive Director, Jennifer Keesmaat, invites you to take part in shaping your city by inviting you to attend various events; from the Chief Planner round table to Toronto of the Future at Metro Hall. To find out more about how you can be the change, visit City Planning or check out Jennifer’s informative blog Own Your City on the range of issues affecting Toronto.
There really are no excuses for not getting involved in shaping your city. A great example already in the works are Linear Parks – the idea is to link underutilized green spaces and connect these to communities. The hydro corridor in Earlscourt Park to Spadina road is just one project which Torontonians are hoping to transform into a linear park called the Green Line. 
If this takes off, the Green Line would connect a number of neighbourhoods, plus nine city parks.
That’s a lot of green space.
If you’re feeling disgruntled at the lack of open space, then I hope this piece has inspired you to be the change so that you may help make this great city, even greater.
(Image source: http://www.torontolivings.com)
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The dangerous world of a product that delivers — June 12, 2015

The dangerous world of a product that delivers

The world of advertising is a funny thing. Promising to deliver so much, and rarely keeping that promise.
The diet world springs to mind as an example of an industry that talks a big game, yet its success stories remain slim.
I identified the dieting world as just one example of a concept largely failing to deliver. It is fair to say that there are a whole host of brands out there that do not keep their brand promise. In many ways, we’ve almost come to expect a slightly less than perfect version of the truth.
Take cleaning detergents. They rarely remove that dreadful red wine stain on your brand new silk shirt. The pen that decides to leak all over your white sheets? Good luck with that one. But, then you knew that when ‘it’ happened. You knew that the end was nigh, despite having your cleaning product to hand. And that’s because products that promise the earth do not perform like they suggest they do.
Unless your product is called Knock Out.
Back in 2011 my husband and I were living in a beautiful garden flat in Crouch End, North London. We had been living there less than two months and were settling into our new surroundings. Our landlord had left us with a few bathroom cleaning detergents, adding that due to the age of the property, sometimes there were issues with the drains. Having lived in converted London homes, this was nothing new.
It was a rare Saturday afternoon where my husband, Chris, took it upon himself to give the bathroom a spruce. We were having guests from Canada arriving mid-week and I imagine he was trying to be helpful.
Chris cleaned the bathroom and kitchen. Life continued as normal.
The next evening, our lovely neighbours who had been away for the weekend, returned to their basement flat which they had called home for 15 years.
Their flat was completely flooded. The ceiling of one of their bathrooms and the kitchen had completely collapsed. The ceiling was entirely exposed, as were the partially destroyed drains which were collecting the water from our dishwasher, washing machine, toilet, sink, shower and bath and transferring this to the floor of our neighbours flat. Furniture and photos were damaged. Thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars worth of damage.
What could have possibly caused such catastrophic destruction? Yes, you guessed it! The industrial strength sulphuric acid product, Knock Out, had indeed largely knocked out the infrastructure of our neighbours ceiling. Now neither of us were expecting that.
Fortunately for us, our neighbours (believe it or not), laughed at the situation. They received a hefty insurance compensation and asked us if we would use the same products towards the back of the flat – they really wanted to upgrade their second bathroom.
Moral of the story? Some brands do deliver their brand promise.
Five realities about renting — June 5, 2015

Five realities about renting

Whether you intend on living solo, renting with friends/strangers, or are simply curious about the do’s and don’ts of the rental-sphere – you’ve come to the right place. Housing can be a minefield and adding other people to the mix, well, things can ugly real quick. But, if you arm yourself with my carefully crafted list, you may just get through the rental-sphere unscathed. And maybe, just maybe, you may make a few friends along the way.
1. Landlords take no prisoners – organize your finances
Rule number 1. Unless your parents are your landlords or you are benefitting from some serious ‘mates rates’, it is highly likely that you will have to pay rent. Not only will you have to pay this privilege every month, you will most likely be required to put down a six week security deposit. On your departure, should the property not be as it was found, expect this deposit to return to your account looking considerably leaner.
And if you have been a terrible tenant, then don’t expect anything back at all. Those parties were a really bad idea, on reflection, weren’t they? Make sure you keep on top of your finances and only buy frivolous fashions knowing that your rent is already accounted for. And be good! Future landlords may require a reference from a previous landlord and no one wants to take on a bad tenant.
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Image source: http://www.lbeeandthemoneytree.com/
2. Vet your Landlord – not all are created equal
Will Ferrell’s hilarious sketch The Landlord sums up everything that can go wrong with a bad landlord. From harassments over money, bad language, intimidation and abuse – the landlord does all this and more in response to her tenants late rental payment. While this is largely for comic value, there is an element of truth.
Be sure that you vet your landlord before you sign on the dotted line. Ask questions – if they’re not able to answer now, then they sure as hell won’t when they’ve got your cash. So be smart and don’t get scammed. Do your research and be confident in this new financial relationship.  If there are red flags then it may be smarter to walk away.
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Image source: http://d1unatz8mcf3a5.cloudfront.net/uploads/pearl-the-landlord.png
3. Visit the property – in person
As attractive as the photos may appear on Craig’s list, it is very foolish to put a deposit down on a property that you’ve not seen. We all know the camera lies and there are plenty of scammers out there waiting to take your six week security deposit.
Go to the property – and go with a friend/agent so that you are not alone and potentially in an unsafe environment. Inspect the property – does it have everything the ad details? If not but the landlord says it’s coming, then get this in writing. At this stage you have the upper hand – so take advantage!
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Image source: www.strengthweekly.com
4. Don’t just sign the lease – read and understand it
The lease is a contract between the tenant and the landlord. This is a legally binding document and it’s hugely important that you understand it. Typically there are two types of tenancies – fixed term and periodic. Understand your tenancy and its implications so that you are well informed to know your rights. For example, periodic leases are commonly monthly or weekly which may suit your situation but if you’re looking for stability and a longer lease, then fixed term is the one for you.
Love your furry friend more than life itself? Well make sure the lease allows pets and if it doesn’t then it’s back to the drawing board.  For more information on what to look out for when signing a lease read this informative article from CIBC.
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Image source: theselfemployed.com
5. Put your stamp on it
You’re probably two steps ahead and already know that before customizing your new home, you need to check that the lease is OK with you painting a wall and inserting a few nails to hang up your art. Assuming this is the case, then awesome. Create away! If your landlord is less than OK with you recreating Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, then there are other options. Free standing art, lamps, throws, rugs and pillows can all add colour and texture to a room.
So don’t leave your personality at the back door – express yourself and create a space you love coming home to.
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Image source: helptobuy.co.uk