Toronto has no shortage of amazing food and drink venues – you do not have to be a foodie to appreciate all the fantastic dining experiences our beautiful city has on offer. With so many options – how does one decide? If you are looking for something out of the ordinary for your next date night, check out these 5 incredibly unique establishments:
1. O. Noir – 620 Church St.
Dine in Complete Darkness. It is said that when we lose one of our senses that the others are heightened. If you are looking for a unique dining experience that will surprise and delight O. Noir is the place to go! With a dining room completely void of light, diners are taken through a 2 or 3 course culinary experience in the dark. Served and assisted by seeing-impaired staff, guests taste their way through surprise dishes and immerse themselves in a one-of-a-kind experience. Two course meals start at $32 and there are two dinner services per evening. Reservations are recommended.
2. Gallery Grill. 7 Hart House Circle
Scrumptious Lunch/Brunch in a Historical Building. Enjoy a casual drink by the fireplace, or reserve a table in the beautiful dining hall in Hart House. Chef Suzanne Baby prepares comforting yet cosmopolitan lunch/brunch options that you can enjoy while you take in the views of the sculpture garden. With vaulted ceilings and hand-painted stained glass windows, this neo-gothic building is a unique lunch-time dining destination. Open to the public from September to June, reservations are recommended.
3. Auberge du Pommier. 4150 Yonge St.
Upscale French Dining in an Unexpected Spot. A tiny French restaurant set in two meticulously-restored woodcutter’s cottages from the 1860’s. Tucked away amongst the high-rises in North York, this little gem offers 5 star service and cuisine. Enjoy traditional French cuisine with fresh North American influences. Although this fine dining restaurant comes with fine dining price tags, most guests commend the restaurant for the high value they receive. If you are looking for a romantic escape in an unexpected place, this restaurant is a great choice. Reservations are necessary.
4. Mysteriously Yours. 2026 Yonge St.
Solve a Murder Mystery While You Dine. Taking ‘dinner and a show’ to a whole new level! Savour excellent food while you engage in a funny and smart interactive murder mystery. Mysteriously Yours is the world’s largest producer of murder mystery entertainment, so you know you are in for an unforgettable night. Whether you dine with two, or twenty-two, this experience is a great way to share laughs and great food with friends. Reservations are recommended.
5. Chill Ice House – 82 Bathurst St.
Enjoy Drinks in a Lounge Made of Ice. In case the winter was not cold enough already, why not enjoy a cocktail in a lounge completely made of ice? Chill Ice House provides a one-of-a-kind experience where visitors can put on complimentary capes and gloves and get together with friends to sip on drinks from cups made of – you guessed it – ice! The bar, walls, tables and seating are all made of ice as well. The lounge is kept at a cool – 5 degrees Celsius, so make sure to wear layers. If you are not a fan of the cold, the lounge is also connected to a (warm) speakeasy in the back where light snacks are available. Admission is $20 for adults and reservations are recommended.
Have you visited any of these establishments before? How was your experience? Let me know!
Spring is just around the corner! Taking on a home improvement project can be a fun and rewarding activity for the weekend. If you are not the handiest of people, have no fear – there are projects even the most inexperienced of us can perfect. Here are 6 easy and inexpensive ways to beautify your home this weekend:
1. Grab a Paint Brush. Take a look around your house – are there baseboards, cabinets or walls that have seen better days? A lot of the time, a thorough clean and a fresh coat of paint is all it takes to make things look like new. If you decide to paint a room this weekend, consider making one of your walls an accent wall – here are some tips for picking the right wall and colours.
2. Look for a Unique Piece to Stand Out in Your Space. Take a trip to your local thrift store or flea market, or look through postings online for a one-of-a-kind piece to step up your decor. You would be surprised where designers find some of their amazing furnishings! Scouring thrift stores and markets is a great way to find older, high quality items that often just need a little bit of TLC.
3. Put Effort Into the Details. Sometimes, the tiniest details can make a huge difference in how we perceive our surroundings. For example, an ordinary guestroom can feel luxurious with a high-quality rug, high-thread count sheets and face towels tied with ribbon placed on the side table. A few key details can transform any room. Not sure what you can do to improve your space? Here are a few ideas:
Decorative Curtain Rings. (for your shower, or window curtains). Instead of regular curtain rings, use decorative napkin holders and use linen or ribbons as an accent OR tie them on directly with ribbons.
Frame It. Thick, elegant frames can make just about anything look luxurious. Try framing your wall-mounted television, the bathroom mirror or even light switch plates! A little creativity can go a long way.
Upgrade Your Bedding. Plush pillows and crisp white linens can make your bed feel like it belongs in a 5 star hotel. If you want to step things up an extra notch, create a DIY canopy bed.
4. Create a Gallery Wall. A gallery wall is a great way to add interest to any room. If you are like many people, you have an accumulation of photographs, prints, paintings, etc. collecting dust somewhere. Look through your collection and pick out between 7-12 of your favourite pieces/photos. Record the sizes of the pieces and find frames to match them. You can choose to get crazy with different colours or keep things neutral with all black or white frames. Create a layout with your pieces on the floor before nailing anything to the wall, and take a look at this ‘how to’ article. Before you spend big bucks on framing – visit your local second–hand stores and look for frames that match your style (remember: painting over frames is easy!). Craft stores like Michaels also tend to have great deals.
5. Get Organized. Tackle a mess this weekend. Is there a part of your home that could use some TLC? Whether it is your garage, clothes closet, craft room or kitchen, pick a section of your home and make it your weekend project. Focusing on a small area is less daunting than deciding you want to organize the entire house, and you will have the time and energy to focus on the details. Once it is clean and organized, you may find yourself inspired to do more in the space!
Are you taking on any home improvement projects this weekend? Let me know!
Winter is not quite over yet, there are still a few weeks of frosty temperatures coming our way. If you are feeling the chill inside your home – try these 5 simple tips to keep the cold air out and the warm air in:
1. Use Curtains – In the day time, open your curtains to make use of the free heat from the sun. The sunlight will do wonders in warming up your home and help keep the space bright and cheerful! Once the sun sets, close your curtains to create a layer of insulation and keep the warmth inside your home throughout the night.
2. Use Timers for Heating –Think ahead and have your heat programmed to turn on at least 30 minutes before you are due to get up in the morning. Programming the heat earlier, at a lower temperature, is more economical than turning the heat on when you get up, at a higher temperature. Remember that a boiler heats up at a constant speed – whether you set it to 20°C or 30°C. Lowering your thermostat by 1 degree can save you upwards of 10 per cent on your energy bill. Remember to lower the temperature by a few degrees before you leave the house if you will be out all day.
3. Keep Heat Sources Clear – Keeping radiators and air vents unobstructed will allow for proper air circulation through your home. It might feel cozy having your couch directly in front of a radiator, but this actually allows the couch to absorb heat – and prevents the radiator from heating the rest of your home. Curtains and clothing that is left out to dry will also absorb heat.
4. Put Up Wall Coverings – The air in your home heats up a lot faster than the walls do. In a poorly insulated home, the inside of the external walls can be several degrees colder than the air. One simple way to warm up your walls is by hanging pictures, mirrors, tapestries or even a poster. A framed picture hung on an external wall is around 1.5°C warmer than a bare wall. By installing hung items, you are adding an extra layer of insulating air and raising internal surface temperatures. If it suits your tastes, a decorative rug or tapestry does wonders warming up a wall.
5. Keep Warm While You Sleep – Do you feel cold at night? It could be because you are positioned close to an external wall. Ideally, your bed should be as far away as possible from cold walls and drafty windows. If space is an issue, and you are forced to be by a window, having a substantial headboard will make you feel much warmer. Instead of cranking the heat, consider a heated blanket and cozy pajamas for those extra-chilly nights.
Staying warm in the winter is important. Ensure that any air leaks are taken care of. A drafty house is harder (and more expensive) to heat. Want some more tips on taking care of your older home? Perhaps you are ready to make a change? Feel free to give me a call at 416.921.1112; I am always happy to help.
It is finally March, and as much as we may be looking forward to turning in our snow–pants and ice-scrapers for shorts and suntan lotion, there is no reason not to enjoy the last few weeks of winter! Before you store away the ice skates and parkas – pack an overnight bag and create some winter memories at one of these fabulous Ontario parks:
Sandbanks Provincial Park – Up for a little road trip through Prince Edward County? This area is the perfect destination for the wine and food lover inside all of us. Explore beautiful wineries and dine at exquisite restaurants before checking into your comfortable accommodations right in the park. Cottages boast beautiful fireplaces and fully-equipped kitchens with options large enough to sleep eight.
MacGregor Point Provincial Park – Ever considered spending the night in a yurt? MacGregor Point offers visitors the unique opportunity to sleep in one of sixteen heated yurts equipped with electricity, large bunk beds, a table, chairs and outdoor barbeque. Your romantic yurt getaway will be complete with a skate through the woods on a lit-up ice trail. Take in the views and enjoy a cup of hot cocoa as you skate under the stars.
Killarney Provincial Park – If you are the adventurous type, Killarney park might just be worth the drive. The wild Georgian Bay landscape, mountains and dark skies are the perfect setting for the park’s various trails (33 kilometres-worth!). These trails are only accessible in the winter months and are perfect for skiing or snowshoeing. Spend the night in one of two camp cabins or one of six yurts.
Windy Lake Provincial Park – If you want to catch some snow before winter ends – Northern Ontario is where you need to go. Windy Lake has exceptionally groomed trails and the area is often the first to see snow in Ontario, lasting right through early spring. There are yurts available that provide cozy overnight accommodations. Grab some skis or snowshoes and do some exploring in the snow.
If overnight adventuring in the cold is not your cup of tea – consider these winter-friendly activities happening close to home:
Winter Activities in Toronto
Outdoor Skating Rinks – rinks are plentiful in the GTA – nothing beats a cup of hot cocoa and an evening of skating on the stars. List of outdoor rinks in the GTA.
Evergreen Brick Works – Evergreen is a Canadian charity that transforms public landscapes into community spaces. They offer lots of family-friendly activities and events year-round. Looking for March Break activities for the kids? Check out their winter events listing.
The Beach Winter Stations – Back for its third year, Winter Stations is inviting Torontonians to explore the city’s winter waterfront. Check out the public art exhibition with six new lifeguard stands. Check out their website for locations and more information.
Ice Fishing – This one may not be in Toronto, but if you ever wanted to try out ice fishing there are some surprisingly close destinations (as close as Hamilton). If you are ready to bundle up and try your luck fishing, check out this list of ice fishing spots close to home.
Do you have any fun winter activities planned for March? Let us know what you are doing!
Sales Up and Listings Down in February
March 3, 2017 — Toronto Real Estate Board President Larry Cerqua announced that Greater Toronto Area REALTORS® reported 8,014 residential sales through TREB’s MLS® System in February 2017. Despite the fact that February 2016 had one more day due to the leap year day, this result was up on a year-over-year basis by 5.7 per cent compared to 7,583 sales reported last year.
“The February statistics tell me that many Greater Toronto Area households continue to view home ownership as a great long-term investment. The high demand for ownership housing we’re seeing is broad-based, with strong sales growth for most low-rise home types and condominium apartments. This makes sense given the results of a recent consumer survey undertaken for TREB by Ipsos, which found an even split between intending first-time buyers and existing homeowners who indicated that they were planning on purchasing a home in 2017,” said Cerqua.
While the demand for ownership housing grew over the past year, new listings entered into TREB’s MLS® System in February were down on a year-over-year basis by 12.5 per cent to 9,834.
The MLS® HPI Composite Benchmark Price was up by 23.8 per cent compared to February 2016. Similarly, the average selling price was up by 27.7 per cent year-over-year to $875,983. Annual rates of price growth continued to be strongest for low-rise home types, particularly detached houses. Growth rates for condominium apartment prices were also in the double digits, likely a result of strong demand from first-time buyers.
“The listing supply crunch we are experiencing in the GTA has undoubtedly led to the double digit home price increases we are now experiencing on a sustained basis, both in the low-rise and high-rise market segments. Until we see a marked increase in the number of homes available for sale, expect very strong annual rates of price growth to continue,” said Jason Mercer, TREB’s Director of Market Analysis.
I think it is safe to say most people want to be able to live in their own home for as long as possible, but as we age, our needs change. Building and renovating with this in mind early on will ensure that your family home can be your forever home. This will help to set aside the time and resources needed to incorporate the elements necessary for a safe and comfortable home for years to come. Renovate with accessibility in mind with these tips:
Where to Start
Include accessibility projects into your upcoming renovations. Your accessibility projects can be subtle and offer function without sacrificing style. Remember, you are looking for ways to make life easy and comfortable, focussing on mobility, cooking and eating, sleeping and bathing.
Doors and Entrances
Moving around the home should not be a challenge. This means all doorways should be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and walkers. Ensure that entryways are smooth and clear with no steps or bumps.
Doorways should be at least 32-inches wide (36-inches is ideal).
Ensure entrances are accessible. Use landscaping to create a slope up to the front entryway, this will allow you to have a functional ramp that does not look out of place.
If you decide to incorporate different types of flooring in your home, remember that the connection from one room to another should be seamless and durable. Carpets are fine, but connecting a carpeted room to a laminate room without reinforcing the entryway can leave your carpet frayed and hard to maneuver through.
Wheelchairs and walkers can be quite heavy – certain woods are more susceptible to damage. If you opt for wooden flooring, maple and bamboo are good options that will be able to resist the wear and tear caused by the force of a wheelchair.
Laminates are a good alternative that offer durability and resistance.
Any carpets in the home should be thin, with a height of 0.5 inches or less without an underpad. This offers less resistance and can accommodate accessibility devices.
An accessible kitchen needs plenty of room to move around. Open concept kitchens are the way to go as they make great accessible spaces.
Renovate with height in mind. Consider sink, counter, and cabinet heights. Accessible counter workspace needs to be at least 30-inches wide and countertops should be 28 – 34-inches off the floor.
Consider the layout carefully. The stove, fridge, and sink should be spaced out enough for room to move around.
If your kitchen is on the smaller side, a movable island is a good alternative.
If you are in a multi-level home, your master bedroom is probably on the upper level. This may be ideal for the time being, but as soon as mobility becomes an issue, getting to and from bed can be quite problematic. One idea is to ensure there is a multi-functional space on the main floor. What you use as an office now, could later be transformed into a bedroom if needs change.
There is no denying it – older homes have small washrooms. Unfortunately, due to these smaller sizes, they are not wheelchair and walker friendly. Determine if your washrooms are currently large enough to work with and, if they are not, some more major renovations may be necessary.
Save some valuable space by changing the swing of your door to open outward instead of into the washroom.
Install wall-mounted sinks to allow space for a wheelchair to fit.
Install grab bars near the tub and ensure the flooring is non-slip.
There are plenty of walk-in shower/bathtub options available for ultimate independence.
It is never too early to start working on our forever homes. If we are mindful of accessibility during the renovations that we already plan to do, we can save time, money and headaches in the future. If you are looking for your forever home, or simply need a change, call me at 416.921.1112 – I would be more than happy to help.
Do you ever look through your home and feel that you have too many belongings? In the United States, the average home has 300,000 items and there are more self-storage facilities than there are McDonald’s restaurants. This being said, if you feel like your home is too full – it probably is. Having too much clutter can leave you feeling stressed and overwhelmed.
To remedy this, here are 5 easy ways to take on a minimalist approach, and rid yourself of some of those belongings!
1. Consider the True Value of These Items. Think about value in regards to how meaningful an item is to you – not its going rate on eBay. It is not just about ridding yourself of your excess possessions, it is about giving importance to the things you value the most. Decide which are actually meaningful to you, and why. What brings you joy? What do you feel comfortable not having around anymore? Think about the reasons why you perceive something to be important to you. If there are things you can do without, do yourself a favour and let them go.
2. Have a Place for Everything. Just because you want to keep something, that does not mean it needs to be displayed. If you do not use it every day, find a convenient spot for it and keep it out of sight. Keep surfaces as clear and clutter-free as possible – the less stuff you see, the less stressed you will be. Having your items organized will also make it easier for you to realize when you have too much of something or when something needs to be replaced.
3. Reduce Quantities. Things have a way of accumulating. Every few months, take an inventory of your belongings and donate or throw out anything you do not need. You will never get rid of everything, but cut down on whatever you can.
For Example: You need towels, everyone does, but do you need 40 of them? Put all of your towels in a pile and pick 4-5 for every person in the household. Toss the raggedy ones and keep only the nicest ones – odds are these are the ones you have been using anyway.
4. Skip the Sales. Are you really saving money if you purchase something you do not need or will never use? It is easy to get enticed by sale stickers but these are usually the items that end up collecting dust. Be mindful of your needs while you shop and try to avoid impulse purchases. If you see something you like, give yourself one night to think about it – you may find you do not feel the same way about it the next day.
5. Do Not Just Organize, Purge. Organizing means moving things around – make sure you are able to get rid of belongings when you clean as well. Consider how often you go shopping and bring new items home – there is no wonder that our homes fill so quickly. We buy, buy, buy, but often forget to make room for the new by getting rid of the old. If you have not touched something in six months – there is a good chance you do not need it. Shop to replace things instead of shopping to add things. Make a note in your calendar to do a quarterly purge.
How do you keep your home clutter-free?
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” We all aspire to live a positive life, with a great attitude and the confidence to overcome any obstacles – but is often easier said than done. Here are 6 great ways to bring more positivity into your life, and make changes for the better:
1. Choose Your Environment Wisely. Your outlook is greatly influenced by your surroundings – the people you associate with and the information you process on a daily basis. The type of things you watch on TV, the articles you read, the social media accounts you follow – these all impact you on a deeper level. Other people also have the ability to alter our mood. We may not even realize it, but we can feel drained after being around certain people, while feeling uplifted around others. Take care to ensure that the influences in your life are supportive and uplifting. Negative people have a way to bring others down with them.
2. Find the Optimism in a Negative Situation. Negativity can easily creep up on us, when we least expect it. When negative feelings start to form, reflect on them and find their source. Are they coming from a place of fear? Or regret? If you are in what seems like a negative situation, ask yourself questions like: What is positive/good about this situation? What is an opportunity within this situation? Problematic situations may arise but we are in control of how we handle them and what we take away from them.
3. Slow Down. Stress can build when we go about our days too quickly. When we eat, drive, work and talk in a hurry – we do not take the time to process situations and our responses in turn can be negative. Slow down, reflect, take a walk – calm your body and mind and mentally prepare yourself for your day.
4. Stay Grounded. When we feel overwhelmed, it is easy to lose perspective. A tiny bump on the road can feel like a full-out road block. Do not lose sight of what you are setting out to accomplish. If you feel like you are losing perspective, try to handle the situation with these three steps:
a. As soon as you sense a negative thought coming into your head, shout “STOP” in your mind.
b. After you have stopped your thoughts in their tracks, be still and take deep breaths, focusing on your breathing as you calm yourself down.
c. Reflect on why you lost perspective in the first place, talk to someone close to you and get a grounded view of the situation. Consider whether this ‘problem’ will matter to you in 4 years, or even 4 weeks? Once you gain some perspective, it will get easier for you to get back into a positive mind frame.
5. Recognize the Fears that Hold You Back. Times when we consider taking a chance in life, such as starting our own business, going on the trip of a lifetime or even asking someone out for a date can be a hotbed for negative thoughts. Usually, the negativity starts creeping in and there are vague fears that stop us from moving further. Think honestly: “What is the worst that could happen?” When you logically think about outcomes – worst-case scenarios are usually a lot less scary than the vague fears our minds come up with. Find the clarity you need to step outside your comfort zone and take a chance. Combat ‘vague’ fears with logic and problem-solving.
6. Be Good to Others. One of the easiest way to bring positivity into your day is to bring positivity to others. What you send out into the world is important. The way you think about and treat others will have a big effect on how you value and treat yourself. Help others: be a listening ear, offer a warm smile, give hugs and encourage people whenever you can. Positivity is contagious!
What do you do to stay positive?
You do not have to wait until spring to successfully sell your home. Winter can be the perfect time to show off your home’s beautiful features and play up the coziness and warmth of your space. Follow these four tips to get your home ready to sell now:
Make a Good First Impression
First impressions are crucial. A potential buyer will usually know in the first few minutes whether or not they like a home. Help yourself out by ensuring the driveway and walkway to your door is clear and safe. Make the entryway as welcoming as possible, with a place for people to hang their coats and a mat or shoe-rack for those who wish to take off their shoes. If you are selling a home that will be unoccupied, ensure that the heat is turned on several hours before a showing. Even if you have a beautiful home – if it feels like a freezer, people will not be impressed. Make everything warm and bright.
Maintain the Exterior
It might seem useless focusing on landscaping when everything is covered in ten inches of snow but work with what you can! Ensure that walkways are shoveled and salted, the driveway is nicely cleared and the front door is as attractive and welcoming as possible. If winter has taken its toll on your lawn and driveway and the snow has melted away – take care in clearing away any debris, trimming shrubs and hedges and installing a few solar powered lights to light up pathways. Tend to any minor repairs and wash paintwork and siding with warm water and soap. Wash the windows as well as winter light has a way of exposing the grime on dirty windows.
Clean, Clean, Clean
Make your home sparkle. It is always ideal for your home to be meticulously cleaned before being shown to potential buyers, but it is extra important in the winter. If people will be walking through your home with their shoes on, be prepared to mop, sweep and vacuum every day. Harsh winter light will also make any cobwebs, dust bunnies or streaks more visible.
Up the Ambiance
If you are doing a showing in the daytime, make good use of natural light – open the blinds and curtains and make the space as bright as possible. Place a few vases filled with winter blooms throughout your home. During the evening, create a welcoming mood by lighting a few candles, putting the fireplace on, placing a throw over the arm of the sofa and setting out elegant dishes for a “dinner”. Step things up a notch by turning your bathroom into a spa by hanging plush robes, set up a shampoo, conditioner and soap grouping on the counter and roll up towels tied with ribbon. Your home will feel extra cozy and romantic and be the perfect retreat from the dismal weather.
Combat winter’s harsh weather by making your home extra warm and inviting. Are you looking to sell your home this winter? Give me a call at 416.921.1112 for more tips on how to get your home ready.
‘Boomerang’ kids, as they are being called, are adult children who have returned to live at home. The boomerang effect is in full swing, as a growing number of millennials count on their parents and grandparents for financial support and a place to live. This has had a major effect on Canadian boomers and their ability to plan for retirement.
In 2011, almost 60 per cent of adults aged 20 to 24 and 25 per cent of 25 to 29 year–olds were living with their parents. This trend has been steadily increasing since 1981. One in four Canadian boomers admits to supporting their adult children or grandchildren.
For those ready to retire in 10 to 15 years, ensuring their adult children have a good start can derail their retirement plans. About 60 per cent of baby boomers feel that supporting their children into adulthood is preventing them from saving enough for their retirement and they feel financially stressed by the situation. Millennials are also aware of the financial stress they put on mom and dad, 43 per cent of millennials say they are willing to cut costs before asking for their parents’ help.
Wanting to provide help for children and grandchildren is natural, but it is important to balance this desire to help with one’s own future retirement goals. Although we might not be able to change the fact that adult children will be counting on their parents and grandparents more than ever before, there are ways to deal with the situation:
Set Some House Rules
Discuss how your kids can contribute to the household. How will you be splitting expenses and household duties? If you are covering the basics like their room and board, what expenses can your kids take on themselves? Will they be paying their own phone bill, car payments and recreational activities? Decide together what would work best for your household. It is important that everyone works together.
Retirement goals are still within reach. Speak with your financial planner and discuss your current situation. Do a goals-based assessment to determine what options are available to support your kids while keeping your retirement plans on track.
Discuss the Finances
Whether it is your daughter moving back in with her husband and grandbaby or your son who just graduated from college, it is important to discuss finances and ensure everyone is educated about fiscal responsibility. It may be a good idea to visit a financial advisor who has experience with multi-generational households, to help you out. It may be unclear how long the current living situation will last so it is important that everyone understands how to navigate their current circumstances and be prepared for self-sufficiency when the time comes.
Develop an action plan and set a few time lines. Identify a date when you will no longer be financially committed to each other. This date may change as time goes on but it is important to have a deadline established to develop detailed goals. As you approach this date, create mini-goals that will help you slowly free-up funds to divert towards saving for retirement. It is important not to ‘cut’ anyone off all at once – slowly allowing them to take on more financial responsibility can help to ease them into their independent and self-sufficient life.
Do you live in a multi-generational household? What approach do you take to ensure things run smoothly?