February 2014


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5 strategies for work-life balance

The dichotomy of work and play has been a long-standing dilemma in daily life. After two hours of commuting plus the eight-hour workday, it becomes difficult to get all ‘essentials’ done — let alone squeeze in ‘me time.’ Employees are working longer hours and daily errands or responsibilities are demanding an ever-increasing amount of time. As tasks pile up, people quickly become overwhelmed. However, there are ways to juggle work responsibilities and still have time for yourself. Here are some tips for finding that balance in your life:

1. Take advantage of Sundays

• Take this day to prepare for the week. Make meal plans and go shopping to avoid mid-week, time-consuming runs to the grocery store. Divide snack foods into single serving containers so preparing meals or throwing together lunches is a simple task.

2. Schedule ‘me-time’

• When life gets hectic, taking time for yourself often gets put on the back burner. Plan blocks of time to do whatever makes you happy. Whether it’s 20 minutes to read your favourite novel or a full afternoon of browsing an art museum, make sure you have time to clear your head.

• Exercise, as important as it is, is often neglected. Join a gym or fitness class close to your workplace so you can go before or after work or even on your lunch break. Not only will this improve your health but your overall well-being will get a boost too.

3. Make meals easy

• Spend a weekend afternoon making food to last throughout the week. Soups, stews and chili can all be frozen in small portions, ensuring days of lunches and quick dinners.

• Prepare produce as soon as it’s purchased. Slicing up your vegetables not only saves time during the week, but also saves room in your fridge. As an added bonus, having pre-cut produce readily available leads to healthier snacking options.

• When cooking, clean up your mess as you make it. Wipe down cutting boards once you’re done chopping and wash pans as soon as you’re finished with them so that when you’re done eating, all that’s left to be cleaned are plates and cutlery.

4. Nurture relationships

• After an eight-hour day, it is tempting to go home, do what needs to be done and go straight to bed. To maintain happiness and balance in your life, however, it’s important to ensure that you sustain bonds with family and friends. Schedule enjoyable events and activities such as family hockey games, dinners with friends or trips to museums.

5. Set boundaries

• Don’t take work home with you. Avoid checking emails after work hours or staying up to work on reports or presentations. At the beginning of the week, prioritize your tasks and prepare a timeline so there are no late nights at the office.

Although it is difficult to brush our responsibilities aside, shortcuts can help keep them manageable. Upholding the importance of family, friends, and personal time ensures that life is balanced and stable.

Support systems make a world of difference

 The last month and a half of my life has been insane: I’ve been writing more and more, organizing my fourth annual #LoveAHeart fundraiser for the Heart & Stroke Foundation, working, going to the gym, and trying to be a good puppy mama. For the majority of January, I slept about four or five hours a night, I was working until midnight most nights and subsisting on tangy BBQ rice chips, Black Cellar shiraz cab and a LOT of sugar-free Red Bull. While I love organizing my event, my dog, my writing, the gym and my job, it got to be a bit much and adding Boyfriend into the mix wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. As it turns out, when you try to do it all something inevitably falls by the wayside.

When I tried to apologize to Boyfriend for not being around as much as I would have liked, he scoffed at me, literally. “Your event won’t be here after February 13 but I will,” he said. His support was unwavering when things got to be too much for me, and when I had to cancel a date he didn’t complain, not once.

On the night of my event, Boyfriend had to leave a little early not because he wanted to but because he was watching my adorable Corgi mix and he needed to head home to walk him. The day after #LoveAHeart when the exhaustion had hit its peak and I cancelled our Valentine’s Day plans in favour of watching Dawson’s Creek in bed and falling asleep at 9 p.m., he told me not to worry and offered to keep pups for another night. This prompted me to scream from the metaphorical rooftops that I have literally the best Boyfriend in the world because he put my sanity and health before our relationship without a second thought, and that is something I had never experienced before he came into my life.

At my first #LoveAHeart I was seeing this guy who wanted to date me but wasn’t at all interested in sex, so that went all kinds of nowhere; he was convinced that if we got naked that things would be too serious so he just wanted to hold hands and make out and stuff. Ha! No. At the second #LoveAHeart, I was with Country Boy who just didn’t show up; granted this is the same guy who ended it over BBM a month later with, “When ya know, ya know?” I probably should have seen that coming now that I think about it. But last year and this year there was Boyfriend, smiling proudly and reassuring me that people would in fact show up.

I’m a lucky girl and I probably don’t tell Boyfriend enough, but I love him more than I love country music and whisky, which is saying a lot — believe me. I hope that he knows how much I appreciate his never-ending support but from his perspective he’s not doing anything special so I shouldn’t be so grateful. If only he knew all those that came before, he’d probably be less surprised by my overwhelming gratitude.

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

A trip from Toronto to Tofino

by Susan Ponting

On the way to Tofino, we drove through some of the most beautiful terrain in the world and scenery that rivals Coastal Route One along the California coast. There’s just nothing like seeing this kind of beauty in person.

The road to Tofino was not cheap. Like Toronto, gas is expensive, and it cost close to $100.00 to fill the Hyundai tank.

We stopped many times just to catch our breath and soak in the beauty: lakes, mountains, even a baby bear grazing on the side of the winding road.

We stopped to take in the not-to-be-missed Cathedral Grove where the trees, some 500 to 800 years old, grip you like a long lost friend.

As we traveled along Pacific Rim Highway 4 into Tofino, we stopped at the Tourist Bureau. They cautioned that most of the motels were booked solid, so we took the first motel we could find, The Weigh West Motel. It was, let’s just say, not the Century Plaza. But the people were accommodating, and it was quiet. That night we ate at the Schooner Restaurant where we had surf-line grab, baby back ribs, and drinks for $104.72 before tips.

A trip to Tofino is not complete without seeing the surfers. We set out early on a foggy morning. Handsome and beautiful surfers of all ages prepared to weather the cold waters, I assume, to catch their reason for living for another day.

The next day we stopped in Uclulet and had an awesome homemade breakfast at the Cynamoka Coffee HouseThey also sell local aboriginal art. The co-owner and cook told me about the powerful Pacific storms that hit this coast during the winter months.

From Vancouver to Victoria, Tofino, and back again, it was a trip to remember. It’s a pity flying within Canada is more expensive than flying to the U.S. or even Europe.

Still, with the beauty surrounding all of our friends in BC, like all good Canadians, they complain profusely about the weather. Pat says it’s the kind of rain that gets into your bones, and gets a grip on you so tight it “won’t let go.”  Genoa, born and raised in Vancouver says you “couldn’t get me to move if you tried.” She says the rain is, “better than snow.” And I’d have to agree.

But according to our BC-born and raised friend, Alison, who is a huge fan of Toronto and misses living here, “Come visit in late January and February, and you’ll really get a sense of what the winter is like here.” She too, says the winter rain is terrible and somehow gets into every part of your body.

They groused about the “big one,” that they hope doesn’t come (referring to the apparently imminent earthquake). And, they rightfully complained about the over inflated economy and how foreign investment is unreasonably driving up the prices. And don’t get them started on HST!

The blues scene in Vancouver is almost non-existent. There’s only one blues bar, The Yale Hotel, but for the most part, Pat Axe says, “It really lacks any kind of local scene.”

A part of me thought the complaints were like the bumper stickers in California,“Welcome to California. Now go home.” They really don’t want more people coming to B.C., so they say things about the weather and how we won’t like it if we ever moved there.

As Sam and I walked along the ocean soaking up the sun and noticing how different Vancouver is from Toronto, we agreed that we both feel a certain belonging there. Of course everything’s more beautiful on vacation, but we have an affinity for this beautiful place.

And we will be back.

Oh, and don’t forget to visit The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for a marsh mellow candy apple!

This article was previously published on January 11, 2012. 

‘Looking’ episode 5 recap – Looking for the future

 Patrick and Richie

It’s the morning after and Patrick is the first to wake. He leaves the naked Richie in bed and makes his way to the shower (but not before we see his cute little booty pull on some underwear — I screen grabbed that one!). He brushes his teeth using his finger, and does the obligatory check of the medicine cabinet to find out which meds — if any — his new partner is on. Finger brushing is always the worst; it’s so hard to reach those molars and you just look bulimic if somebody walks in at the wrong time. This is why I only suggest doing so when you have to go straight to work or you’re planning round two in the bedroom. Right before he can make his sweet escape, Patrick hears music coming from the bedroom, a naked Richie is playing bass guitar in bed and singing.

How can Patrick head to work and leave this stud serenading him? We find out that Richie has stayed at Patrick’s at least three times now and this has made him late for work in the past. They kiss each other goodbye and Patrick says good morning to Richie’s erect, “incredible penis.” He leaves, like an idiot, but suddenly regrets his actions and makes his way back to Richie’s bed for a more orgasmic send-off. This is when things really heat up. Like, really. I may have re-watched this scene about twelve times. Richie gives Patrick a blow job then pushes his legs up to go even a little further downtown. The look on Patrick’s face says it all, it’s the look some tops get when they receive an unexpected rim job. Richie tells him not to worry, “You just took a shower.” Which is a lot better than stumbling home with a random from the club and thinking it’s a good idea to visit his back door. Richie really wants to top Patrick, but Patrick normally doesn’t bottom. The moment is interrupted when Patrick finishes, directly into Richie’s mouth, something Patrick says later “isn’t completely safe.”

They have some breakfast at a diner, where Richie pokes fun at the taste of Patrick, “did you have pineapple yesterday?” and Patrick laments his love for The Goonies. “Heeeeyyyy you guysssss!” Richie tells Patrick that he used to have braces and was embarrassed by them as a child. We also find out that Richie’s ex was HIV positive but “Don’t worry, I’m not.” A jolt of paranoia passes Patrick’s face, he really does get worried about everything. Watching these two flirt and joke is adorable — the passion and intrigue that happens when two people really start to connect and learn about one another is always a beautiful thing. Patrick is having such a good time that he decides to call in sick to work so the two can continue exploring.

They go through all of the typical questions two gay guys ask each other when they’ve passed the pleasantries and can delve a little deeper. What was your first gay experience? When did you come out to your parents? How’d they take it? Patrick was fifteen and in the back of a bus on his way home from computer camp with a fellow nerd; they had a blanket over their laps and Patrick helped his buddy out. Richie was fourteen and gave blow jobs to the Mormon guy that came over about once a week. They walk to the mysterious destination that Richie has picked out, Patrick can’t seem to stop talking, “I’m not good with silences, just so you know.” Oh, we know Patrick, we know. Thankfully Richie always seems to call him on his shit, which is probably the main reason I’m team Richie all the way.

They eventually make it to a planetarium and just as I started thinking, Wow, this is a Friends rip-off, Richie beats me to it. “This is sort of like where Ross took Rachel on their date.” Yes! Exactly! They come to the conclusion that Patrick is the Rachel since she’s typically the one in charge and therefore would be the top. Richie provides a wonderful moment where he says that he doesn’t identify with the labels top or bottom (“those are for people on websites”) and is adaptable to experiences. Patrick claims he doesn’t like to bottom, “As soon as it’s in I’m like, take it out, take it out, take it out!” Nothing kills the mood like when a guy says take it out — trust me. They come to the conclusion that Patrick has bottom shame and that’s why he isn’t normally into it and Richie admits that usually, he would be the Rachel. I hope these two don’t end up going on a break where one of them sleeps with the hot copygirl.

They grab some street meat after the planetarium and discuss their coming-out stories. Richie’s father didn’t take it so well and he avoids discussing it further. Patrick told his mom in a car on the way to the airport and she made it all about her.

On a side note, I remember when I first decided to come out to my mother, I geared up, watched some scenes from the film Milk to really build my confidence, then when we were out for brunch and my mother asked me if there were any girls I was interested in I said it, “I don’t really like girls.” My heart stopped, waiting for her reply. “Excuse me, can we get some more milk?” she asked the waitress. I thought she hadn’t heard me, and I didn’t bring it up again until I was drunk after my brothers wedding and let it all out a la C.R.A.Z.Y. Turns out, she had heard me in the diner but was going through a lot at the time (my grandfather was on his deathbed) and didn’t really allow herself to acknowledge my reveal. I was angry for a while when I found that out, but her support and love has more than made up for it and she currently adores my boyfriend. My father was living in Vancouver at the time, and we weren’t really on speaking terms. He happened to tune into MTV one night and saw me on one episode of 1 Girl 5 Gays. He called up my sister to ask if I had been on a TV show, she said yes. He replied with “Tell him I love him.” We’ve reconnected since and the topic has come up a couple of times, we laugh about it now, but thanks MTV for doing my dirty work!

So back to Patrick and Richie! They walk past beaches, talk about marriage — they both eventually want to get hitched. “Now we have to deal with that pressure,” says Patrick since gays can now legally marry. Sure it’s a pressure that’s put on you to be considered normal and get married, but be grateful you now have that option. Patrick reminds me of myself, he worries about everything, which is why Richie is such a great Yin to his Yang. Richie is more faith based, he tells Patrick about his Seniora, an older woman who rubs eggs over his body then answers questions about his life based on reading his cards. Patrick pokes fun at it a bit, and Richie gets a little defensive, “Some people have drugs, addictions; I have her.” Richie brings Patrick to see her but he backs out once he realizes Richie would have to translate and hear all of Patrick’s bad fortunes before Patrick would. Who would want your new partner to find out your darkest secrets? Another reason why you should keep your bathroom cabinet locked.

The two end up exactly where they started, back in bed. Patrick let’s Richie know that he does eventually want to bottom for Richie, not today since he’s “opened up enough already,” but it will happen. Richie throws Patrick a condom and they are back in the throws of new love.

I really did love this episode. I have been on this date. I have had these discussions. It really was the most accurate portrayal of two men falling for each other I’ve seen since Andrew Haigh’s film Weekend. They touch on a lot of topics, more than I was able to discuss here, but the format was a great way for the two to learn about one another and for us the audience to get more of a back story about them. The only thing I missed were our other characters, but I’m sure we have a lot more of Agustin and Dom to look forward to.

Follow Brett on Twitter at @AshleyBrett.

6 tips to fuel your run

by Vanessa Perrone

If your goal is to keep fit or set a new personal record, the proper pre-run nourishment can set the pace for success. Below you’ll find some fundamental fueling tips to consider before heading out to hit the pavement.

1. Fill up the tank

Expecting your body to run on empty will most likely result in sluggish performance. Instead, fueling up on the proper foods at the proper time will provide your body with energy, a sense of fullness, and sustained blood sugar over the duration of your training.

2. Think carbohydrates

As the body’s preferred source of energy, runners primarily rely on carbs to fuel their muscles. Stocking your diet with a variety of whole foods such as quinoa, rice, pasta, fruits and vegetables are key for maintaining carb stores that will supply the body with energy during long runs.

3. Timing is key 

For most, three to four hours is sufficient time for a regular meal to settle before a run. But if you plan to work up a sweat at a higher intensity, extra time might be necessary. In either case, avoid high-fat or high-protein meals pre exercise. Steer clear of fried foods, heavy meats or rich sauces, as they exit the stomach at a slower pace and can be detrimental to performance.

As your run approaches, your meal should be lighter, should consist of quickly digested carbs and of a small amount of protein — if you can stomach it.

Here are some tested pre-run snacks:

  • oatmeal
  • slice of toast and fruit preserves
  • rice cakes topped with nut butter
  • trail mix (dried fruit & nuts)
  • banana
  • piece of fruit
  • small smoothie

4. Keep it familiar

Although broadening of culinary horizons is normally encouraged, avoid any unfamiliar eats on training day. Stick to trusted foods that will provide you with energy rather than discomfort.

5. Stay hydrated

Aim to guzzle three to four glasses of water within the hours before your workout to ensure optimal hydration on the run.

6. Trial and error

Pre-exercise fuel should be tailored to individual tolerance. To find that perfect balance, you must stay attentive to your performance. Why not journal your pre-run meals along with your running log? This is a sure way to establish which foods work best for you and will help propel you towards your goal.

Follow Vanessa on Twitter at @VanPerrone.

Follow Women’s Post on Twitter at @WomensPost.

The ‘dating contract’ is something that actually exists

Dating is hard, especially around Valentine’s Day when single sounds like a dirty word and every date comes with the added pressure of the Hallmark holiday.

Recently, while having dinner with a group of friends, I received a call from one of my best girlfriends who needed to see me for drinks immediately. Assuming that something was wrong, I invited her to join us.  After she ordered a very large glass of wine and a piece of cheesecake, we had the pleasure of hearing about what was possibly the worst blind date … ever.

Blind dates are never a good idea, but when a friend sets you up with someone you go in confidently knowing that a friend would never put you in an uncomfortable situation. For whatever reason, this was not the case on that particular evening.

My friend arrived at the date with high expectations, hoping for, at the very least, a fun evening. What she was met with was a clipboard and a ‘dating contract.’ She was instructed by Mr. Clueless to read and sign the two-page, six-clause document before the date could begin. Knowing that this date had gotten off to a bad start anyway, the lifelong Torontonian had met Mr. Clueless at a restaurant in The Rogers Centre for dinner. Even without the dating contract, he had lost points for choosing the most touristy possible location.

The best thing about the Dating Contract is that my friend had to agree to indemnify the woman who had set them up, which I imagine is good for their friendship.

As I read through the contract to our friends at dinner, it was met with a mix of shock and disbelief. How could a man living in Toronto actually be this clueless? How could anyone that has ever been on a date try this on someone? Did we accidently stumble into some real-life sitcom? Friends hasn’t been on the air for years, but I’m pretty sure this would have made an excellent plot line.

Page 1 of the dating contract © Shannon Hunter

Dating is hard enough without forcing someone to sign a contract that outlines every step of the relationship, including who pays for what, what terms you’ll use to describe your relationship in three months’ time, and mandatory disclosure of any and all “bizarre religious beliefs.”

To her credit, my friend managed to stay with Mr. Clueless all the way through dinner and she even went with him to the top of the CN Tower, which for a lifelong Torontonian is also cheesy and forced, but when he tried to get her to stand on the glass floor despite her fear of heights, she called it a night.

To his credit I’d like to thank Mr. Clueless for providing me and several friends with an evening of laughter; but if I could give you one piece of advice, Mr. Clueless, it would be this: don’t try so hard. Deciding how you’re going to introduce someone to your friends over the course of the next three months is a bit much, especially when it comes before drinks.

This article was previously published on February 16, 2012.

Follow Shannon on Twitter at @Shananigans.

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.

So you think you can blog?

Blogs have become an important tool for personal and business development. I’ve been blogging off and on since the early days of LiveJournal, but when I decided last year that I wanted to get more serious about lifestyle blogging, I felt a little bit lost. How much of myself am I willing to share? How often do I need to be posting? Will anyone want to read it? How will I live up to the gorgeous photography and beautiful prose of my favourite bloggers? Of course, the most important step was to just get started and learn through experience, but here are a few resources that will give you the knowledge and vision you need when starting your own blog.

Blogging for Bliss by Tina Frey 

Blogging for Bliss is a beautifully laid out book with gorgeous full-colour photos and jam packed with helpful tips. Although it’s specifically geared towards crafters and artists, the information it contains is useful for anyone looking to create a beautiful and engaging blog. Using screenshots from the best-of-the-best that the blogosphere has to offer, author Tara Frey demonstrates what works in blogging and what doesn’t. Easy to follow tutorials walk you through the steps for simple photo editing and web design techniques to take your blog to the next level. Some of the most popular creative bloggers also grace its pages, sharing their wisdom on creating great posts and attracting a loyal readership.

Available from Amazon.

Bloggin tips from Problogger

Problogger is the ultimate resource for anyone looking to make money from blogging. Articles are posted daily, offering tips from the world’s greatest blogging experts. The site also offers specialized workbooks and a brand new book that you can purchase, if you’re looking for even more information.

Fairy Tales for Writers by Lawrence Schimel 

Sometimes the hardest part of blogging is finding the inspiration. If you’re trying to post everyday it can be easy to fall into a rut and start posting things that you think you should because everyone else does, but it’s not something that really inspires you. For that reason, I’ve started keeping this magical little book in my bag at all times. In this chapbook of whimsical poetry, Schimel holds up the mirror to the joys and struggles of the creative process. Somehow, these tongue-in-cheek fairytales about the publishing world and woes of writing always puts a smile on my face, and inevitably I’m scribbling down ideas again in no time. So, if you can find a pocket-sized source of inspiration, I recommend taking it with you everywhere.

Available from Amazon.

If you have any blogging tips or would like to leave a comment with a link to your blog, I’d love to read them!

6 tips for all-day energy

Do you find yourself running out of energy at different points during the day? Do you end up reaching for coffee or something with a bit of sugar in it to keep you going?

While there may be a burst of energy from the caffeine or sugar, there is often a big dip that follows, and then the cycle repeats itself. Then perhaps you find yourself amongst the sleepy passengers on the TTC or GO Train on the way home: too tired to cook a complete meal when you get there.

What is happening in the body through these energy bursts and dips is actually a blood sugar and insulin roller coaster that can be avoided by eating certain foods in particular combinations.  The result is more sustained energy, better mental focus and appetite control. Getting more stability in the body’s blood sugar response is often one of the first things that I work on with my nutritional counseling clients, and it usually does not take long to see improvement.

So what’s the trick?  Try these tips:

1. Avoid refined flours, sugars and white rice as they are too quickly metabolized in the body.

2. Avoid or at least minimize coffee as it contributes to rapid fluctuations in blood sugar.

3. Start your day with a good source of protein (e.g. plain Greek yogurt, eggs, lean meat) along with some complex carbohydrates (whole fruit or vegetables, whole grains) that provide energy and fibre – those morning pastries will spike your blood sugar and set you up for a day of swings.

4. Have five to six small meals (that includes snacks) throughout the day so that your blood sugar does not have a chance to crash before your next meal; include healthy protein, a good fat and complex carbohydrate. A couple of good snack examples are an apple with a handful of raw almonds, or vegetables with hummus or guacamole.

5. If your energy lags mid-afternoon, rather than taking a break for coffee or cookies, use that time to take a short walk, even if it’s just down the hall and back – physical activity promotes energy.

6. If you find yourself so hungry when you get home that you end up over-grazing before dinner, try eating an apple or some vegetables before you leave work to reduce your hunger later.

The key to making this work is to plan ahead so that you are never caught unprepared and needing to grab something quickly, as that’s when less healthy decisions are made. Every weekend, try to stock up on the next week’s worth of healthy ingredients and put together your snack packs for the office so that they are handy. Before long you’ll be unstoppable.