April 2014


Viral video pokes fun at parents trying to bargain when gay kids come out of the closet

For a lot of gay people this scenario rings true: coming out to parents and facing a barrage of bargaining from them in hopes that you’ll choose something — or anything — else for your orientation.

This video by Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal highlights the absurdity of trying to tell someone not to be gay by adding some options like “were-gay” (being mostly straight but doing some gay stuff once in a while) to the mix, and even stringing up people who are okay with gays but only because they appreciate cartoonish stereotypes like fashion sense.

Tell us what you think, does this video hit the nail on the head?

How do you pick the right real estate agent for your family?

By Jelena Djurki

Deciding to move can be a stressful decision. Picking the right house, finding the right neighbourhood and being able to afford it all can take its toll, not to mention the actual moving day. It can be even harder on mothers who often have to take extra consideration in making sure the house they buy suits their family. In our Agent Moms five-part series, I take a look at five questions every mom should ask herself before taking the real estate plunge.

This week: How do you pick the right real estate agent for your family?


Figuring out what you want in a house is key to finding an agent that will help you find it. You have to be clear about what you’re looking for before you even start searching. How does your family live? Do you like to entertain and need a formal dining room? Do you want an open kitchen so you can supervise the kids while they do homework? As your children grow up and become teens, will you want bedrooms for them in the basement? A good agent will ask you these questions and find you a house that fits your needs.

“I have (had to) talk more people into buying a house that works for them 362 days of the year rather than the three days that company comes to visit,” said Karen Salmon, a real estate agent with Royal LePage in Calgary.

It’s best to find an agent that suits your personality. Remember: You will be working with this person for up to months at a time. “It’s all about relationships,” said Salmon, who has been an agent for five years. “You’re going to be forming a relationship and you have to communicate with each other.”


Don’t be afraid to research their background and interview potential agents to find the one that suits your needs. Five questions you should be asking are:

1. What are you going to do? What’s your approach to selling my house? 
2. What is included in  your service?
3. How often am I going to hear from you?
4. How can I get a hold of you?
5. Will you be the person I’m talking to on a regular basis? (If they work in a team)

Salmon says your agent should be communicating with you on a weekly basis, even when there are no offerings. This can help nip things in the bud in case the houses your agent and you are looking at aren’t meshing.


It’s important to realize that your agent is a person too. An agent may be working with 10 to 20 listings at any time, so being clear about what you’re looking for could help your agent find you your new humble abode sooner.

Salmon says knowing your lifestyle, being able to agree to an appropriate price, and cooperating in showcasing your house is crucial. Buyers often go into homes and get swept up in how well they’re decorated, suddenly picking a house that doesn’t match what they were first looking for. A good agent will help remind you of your original “non-negotiables,” such as the floor plan or location you wanted, and steer you back on track. “It’s my job to force them to revaluate their needs and wants,” said Salmon.


Seventy-five per cent of Salmon’s business comes from referrals. Still do your research even if a friend recommends someone. Maybe the son of your co-worker is a nice kid but not the right real estate agent for you.

Trawling through listings and real estate agents on the internet can be an excellent way to find out what’s out there. Crack open a real estate magazine or look through your local newspaper. There are always listings and you can find real estate agents through them. Also, don’t be afraid to visit open houses, even if you’re not yet looking for a house. Walking into an open house is a great way to meet an agent informally and see how they work with potential clients.


#WhaleFail: Lessons in digital marketing

By Murtaza Adamjee

In its simplest definition, digital marketing is defined as the promoting of a brand through the use of digital distribution channels to reach consumers in a timely, relevant, and personal manner.

Although similar to internet marketing in many aspects, digital marketing extends beyond the traditional practices; digital marketing includes a multitude of elements that today predominantly encompasses social media, mobile marketing, and social networking.

In recent years, there has been an apparent explosion in digital marketing creating major shifts in marketing opportunities. It has reshaped communication, creating in essence, an easily accessible, global network. However, despite the buzz, there remains a certain degree of resistance to its applications. Simply put, the idea of implementing digital marketing as a valid business application seems ineffective at the surface; quite possibly because businesses don’t immediately see how they can extend their reach to potential customers in 140 characters or less.

In order to fully understand digital marketing’s potential impact on the return on investment (ROI), I have decided to take a look at companies who have employed its practices, not for better, but more importantly, for worse.

Case Study: Nestlé

One of the biggest elements of digital marketing, social media campaigns are now widely used by companies to create buzz, network with customers, and create an online presence. Essentially, social media campaigns focus on the grouping of individuals into specific networks that share common interests. Over time, these networks gain social credibility, and become platforms for interactive networking where business can share information, connect with consumers, and target specific aspects of everyday life.

In March 2010, Greenpeace changed its home page to a photo-shopped version of the Kit Kat logo that read ‘Nestlé Killer’ in an attempt to increase awareness of Nestlé destroying rainforests for palm oil.

To support Greenpeace, a handful of Nestlé’s 90, 000 fans on Facebook decided to change their profile pictures to the Photoshopped mock-up. In response, Nestlé requested fans remove the altered version of the company’s logo or be subject to having their comments deleted. The reaction from a few fans was something along the lines of “What ever happened to freedom of speech and expression?” This embarked a series of sarcastic and hostile remarks from whoever was in charge of Nestlé’s public relations. The individual proclaimed that the logo was Nestlé’s intellectual property and as a result, went on the offensive (talking about missing your morning cup of coffee). Lesson #1: don’t insult your customers; in a matter of minutes, Nestlé landed itself in a PR nightmare.

Case Study: Pepsi

With the emergence of digital marketing, mobile marketing has also become an increasingly popular channel to reach customers. With the advanced browsers of the iPhone and smartphones, a number of companies are now turning to the iPhone/iTunes platform; 90 per cent of North Americans are within three feet of their cell phones 24 hours per day. Through mobile marketing, companies have a way to reach their target market wherever they are, at any time of the day.

In 2009, Pepsi introduced an iPhone application (app) by the name of AMP UP Before You Score in an attempt to promote its AMP energy drink. The iPhone app was specifically designed to help men ‘score’ in their quests to pick up women by offering a sheet of information and pick-up lines for 24 stereotypes of women (sounds handy).

The iTunes description read: “Know what makes her tick before you open your mouth, so she’ll like what she hears when you do.” The mobile application promised to be a “roadmap of success with your favorite kinds of women.”

The release of the app was met with a roar of criticism, and forced Pepsi and AMP to offer an apology via Twitter – “Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women. We apologize if it’s in bad taste & appreciate your feedback. #pepsifail.”

Despite the apology, the damage had been done. Undoubtedly, a number of customers’ reverted to boycotting Pepsi’s products.

Just a few of the responses:

@metroidbaby: Though I appreciate the(non-)apology, @ampwhatsnext, damage is done. I won’t be buying Pepsi products for a very long time.

@cobra_DeEtta: @AMPwhatsnext Your campaign is thoughtless and offensive despite the guise of juvenile humor to excuse it. Lame apology not accepted.

@gsborealtor: @AMPwhatsnext #pepsifail You need more than to give a half-hearted apology, pull the app

Case Study: Skittles

Social networking campaigns are often used by companies as platforms for communicating with clients. In particular, Twitter is an effective medium that can be used by companies to target customers in the same digital media community. In a sense, Twitter helps humanize a brand.

In 2009, Skittles launched a social networking campaign that would rock the social media world. The home page was converted into a Twitter panel that captured an uncensored feed of tweets with the word “skittles.” Some argued that the stunt was a success as Skittles would benefit from the increase in publicity. However, social networking is about engaging with your customers; something Skittles failed to do in its entirety. According to social media consultant Joanne Jacobs, essentially all Skittles did was “set up a doorway…to nothing. Give users a mirror and they tend to make funny faces in front of it. Give users some content, and a context in which ideas can be explored, and they engage.”

Skittles failed to provide content of its own, and most importantly, failed to interact with its customers. Ultimately, the Skittles Twitter experiment was a bust; all that was accomplished was a stream of invaluable jargon without any relevant context for productive engagement.

With the number of digital marketing tools readily available, the challenge for companies is realizing this trend and using it to their advantage. Social networking platforms are powerful tools for communicating with clients. However, Nestlé, Pepsi, and Skittles are classic case studies of companies trying to impose its rules and censorship on social networking platforms for which they actually have no control. If used correctly, digital marketing platforms can provide businesses with a host of effective tools that can be utilized to build quality relationships within their target market. Lesson learned. Case closed.

GOOD GOSH: We try out lash extensions!

Amanda and I have both heard from friends how addictive lash extensions can be and we’re excited to try the latest beauty craze ourselves. Deciding to indulge in a Friday after-work treat, we walk over to Good Gosh Beauty, Toronto’s hottest new beauty studio. Although we both express a concern over having someone work so closely to our eyes, shop owner, Lauren Kurtz, instantly puts us at ease.

Originally trained as a professional makeup artist for television and film at Toronto’s own Complections International Makeup School, Lauren eventually moved into permanent cosmetics. She realized she could master the technique in order to create the same elegant, natural effects she achieved with traditional makeup. “From there, lash extensions were a natural progression,” she explains, “It makes sense that they’ve become so popular; they allow you to cut down on the time you spend on your daily beauty routine and the results are stunning.”

The price of a set of lash extensions depends on the style you choose – with options ranging from the MacGraw, with 35 lashes per eye, to the Kardashian, which boasts 75 plus lashes per eye. I’m instantly drawn to the Audrey, named after my favourite beauty icon, while Amanda opts for a bolder look.

Before and after:

Click to enlarge.

Lauren only uses premium synthetic mink eyelashes, as they’re natural and weightless, and act like real lashes. She carefully selects the thickness and curl of the extensions she applies based on our natural lashes. She works meticulously as each one is individually glued to an existing lash to ensure a look that mimics the real thing – only better, longer, and more luscious, of course. Whereas mascara can only add up to one millimeter of length to your lashes, extensions add a much more dramatic effect.

Despite our initial fears, there is no discomfort from the procedure and Lauren tells us that many of her clients fall asleep while she does the application. Instead, the three of us chat about everything from fashion to our love lives, while humming along to the songs playing from Lauren’s iPod. Although it takes nearly an hour and a half each, it feels like no time before we’re winking at ourselves in the mirror, admiring our new lashes that seem to go on for miles.

Before we leave, Lauren hands us each an aftercare kit and goes over the instructions for keeping them looking great. She recommends a refill after two weeks and is careful to explain that we must avoid getting them wet while the glue sets over the next 24-48 hours – this means wearing goggles in the shower and sad movies are strictly forbidden.

Walking home, Amanda and I agree – while lash extensions may seem like an indulgent treat – they’ve left us feeling flirty and feminine, and never having to worry about running mascara again could certainly justify the expense.



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Marathon runner beats the odds to survive car crash and run again

In the blink of an eye Leaha MacDonald’s running days were over. Instead of training for her next marathon she was lying in a hospital bed fighting for her life.

On September 16, 20ll, MacDonald was walking her bike across the street and was struck by an SUV. What came next for MacDonald was an incredible journey to not only beat the odds in surviving the collision, which threw her 50 feet, but to walk and, amazingly, run again.

On August 25 the Calgary resident will be lacing up her shoes with two friends to run the Edmonton marathon – just two years after that fateful day.  MacDonald started running again four months ago and is looking forward to participating in the marathon on Sunday. Her goal is to run it in seven hours – to complete the distance. Her best time is 4:11.

In a recent phone interview from her family home in Ontario, MacDonald and her mother, Mariann, shared with me details of her miraculous recovery and her passion for running. “I was on my way home after a work event – a team building session, and it was 4:30 pm. I was walking my bike across the street. If I didn’t wear a helmet I would have been dead. The helmet saved me,” MacDonald, with a positive, confident delivery, says. “Also, the doctors said I was in good shape, which helped.”

MacDonald was in a coma for two months. She sustained a severe brain injury and hip fractures. After three weeks in a coma doctors informed her family there was little hope of recovery and were recommending palliative care. MacDonald says: “They told my family there was only a two per cent chance of recovery and they thought I would live in a (care) home the rest of my life.”

Her mother adds, “She still has a long, long way to go yet, she is struggling with memory and problems with balance. She was paralyzed in the right leg and right arm and only started running recently. She is seeing a speech therapist and a physiotherapist. The doctors are surprised of her recovery.”

MacDonald explains, “I had to learn to breathe, eat, swallow, talk and sit again.” She spent three months in hospital in Calgary and then went home to Toronto to spend six weeks in rehab for brain injuries, which followed another six weeks at the brain injury rehab clinic. She then began to learn to walk.

She says, “Oh my God, as soon as I walked I told my physiotherapist I wanted to run.”

With six marathons and three half irons under her belt, this marathoner was determined to run again. She says, “I am a hugely stubborn person and almost two years after the accident, here I am running in my first official full marathon.”

In yesterday’s Edmonton Marathon MacDonald completed the distance in eight hours. She says via e-mail, “I thought I’d let you know that I finished today! I was super slow, 8 hours and I am very tired. But I did it!!”

Leaha MacDonald learned again to breathe, swallow, walk and will now run.  She is a symbol of perseverance and in my opinion is a true Canadian hero.


Women of the Week: Sarah Jean Aguinaldo

Sarah Jean Aguinaldo, also known as Serena Jean, is the founder of Lifeward Choices Empowerment Centre. With over 15 years of experience, she is skilled at helping people uncover their life focus areas and guiding them to empowerment.

Her interest in this field (as she defines it, a “humanitarian interest”) started very early in her life, and she retained it throughout her schooling.In fact, as a teenager, she received the University of Women Award for her volunteer work.

“I was very passionate about helping others grow and experience quality living,” she says.

When it came time to pursue higher education, her path was easy to choose.

“I wanted to help people experience improved living/great quality living, help people take care of planet…wanted to be a part of finding solutions to making this happen,” she says. So, through a double major in Environment and Resource Management and Urban, Economic and Social Geography, Aguinaldo was able to explore the many important global issues humanity is currently facing.

After completing her BA, Aguinaldo went after a B.Ed, before starting work as a teacher. It was here, she says, that she fully realized her desire to work in the life coaching field.

“There is nothing more important in life than personal betterment and helping others grow – the two go hand-in-hand and such care is needed to help our planet become healthier and more wonderful. These things are all interconnected.”

Thus, in March of 2013 she launched the website for the Lifeward Choices Empowerment Centre. The Centre, she says, “sees life coaching as a two-way and collaborative process; learning and development occurs for both parties involved.” Through each interaction, both the coaches and the clients are given the opportunity “to learn from one another/from other’s experiences and constantly adjust our self-views and worldviews.”

As well as offering access to skilled life coaches, the Centre reaches out to clients in unique ways through its conventions and mentorship programs.

The conferences, Aguinaldo says, “build rapport and genuine community,” which in turn creates “long-term clients who are satisfied clients, and they further recommend the business.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the mentorship program (which Aguinaldo calls “extremely fun”) sees coaches reach out to adolescent girls through social outings designed to increase their self worth.

“It is wonderful to witness their transformation into strong aspiring ladies who love themselves and their lives,” she says.

Furthering her reach, Aguinaldo is currently working with “to provide online mentoring and coaching to reach the deaf community through subtitles and sign language” and is planning to launch a line of coaching videos, translated into multiple languages, in October of this year.

As a life coach, Aguinaldo has found her niche. Not surprisingly, when asked what her most important piece of advice is, Aguinaldo quickly responds,  “Ensure you are genuinely going after your personal passion, what naturally calls to you, and not simply what societal norms is directing you to follow; thus, success is already yours from the outset.”

Wise words indeed.

SET UPS: Does being in a relationship mean we know what’s best for our friends?

I set a friend up last week. For real, I did that. As a girl in a real life, almost grown-up and totally kind of serious relationship I feel as though it is my duty to introduce my single friends to each other because I don’t want to be alone and in a relationship. I want my friends to meet awesome people so we can talk about how crazy and ridiculous our Boyfriends are over martinis.

I don’t know when someone decided that being in a relationship automatically made you a matchmaker but someone did and we’ve been listening to this anonymous voice ever since, even though it makes no sense; those of us in relationships feel as though it is our duty to introduce our single girlfriends to our single guyfriends and vice-versa. I’m not sure who started this trend — and I’m almost positive that they have since been hunted down by single girls — but it’s a thing now and we all seem to embrace it.

One of my close friends is single. After a long, and pretty atrocious, relationship she is out in the world once more looking for her person and it isn’t easy so I thought I’d set her up with a guy who fits her needs: single. Do they suit each other? A little bit. Do I have any right setting anyone up? Not really.

I met Boyfriend in line for a TIFF movie with one of my favourite friends, the one who swears he planned the whole thing for us, even though I’m certain it was a fairly natural meeting. And because we’ve been inseparable ever since, am I an authority on dating practices? Having a person who likes me that I also happen to like doesn’t make me a matchmaker. Just because one boy happens to want to see me naked on a regular basis does not mean that I’m a real life version of E-Harmony. I’m a girl who against all odds found a boy that makes me happy; but when my own relationship feels like a crazy fluke should I really have a say in who my friends date? Really?

So while I’ll likely continue to set up my girlfriends with guys that I think they might kind of get along with I should probably stop, we all should. But it’s hard to be with someone, alone. It’s hard not to want your friends to be just as happy and in love as you are, it’s hard to understand why they don’t want to meet your boyfriend’s friend’s cousin who is totally awesome and probably really cool.

The truth is until we’re married, and maybe even then, relationships are precarious and the idea of going through them alone is hard because until things are mostly for sure he’s just another guy and we need our friends to hold our hands in case it doesn’t quite work out.

Fortunately, friends are good like that and even if you don’t set them up with the white Taye Diggs or the black Channing Tatum who is totally cute and not at all like a character from a Tarantino flick they’ll be there for you. Promise.

RECIPE: Kitchen style hamburgers

It’s summer time which brings barbecue season. I always look forward to cooking hamburgers on the barbie, but now living in an apartment the chances of doing any backyard barbecuing is gone, except when I am invited to a friend’s backyard barbecue. I do miss the smell of hamburgers cooking, and the aroma lingering right to the front door. Often, the smell of the delicious food would be just after a run. I could hardly wait to finish stretching to enjoy a hamburger, garnished with ketchup, onions, and cheese. That would hit the spot after a hard workout!

Living in an apartment there is no barbecuing allowed. The next best option is to take my culinary skills to the kitchen and make my hamburgers perhaps not barbecue style, but certainly decadent. I call it the kitchen style barbecuing.

After a run last week, I decided to make hamburgers-kitchen style. Like with all meats, I am careful in how I handle the meat. For more information click here.

  • Use a food thermometer you can’t tell if food is cooked safely by how it looks.
  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling food.
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next food.
  • Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces.  If you use cloth towels, WASH them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
  • Rinse fresh fruits and vegetables under cool running tap water, including those with skins and rinds that are not eaten.
Here is how I make my hamburgers: (Patties are ready made)
  1. 160 0 F (71 0 c) Make sure the hamburgers are cooked at this temperature.
  2. I use extra lean Canadian ground beef.
  3. I put a bit of water in a skillet and a pinch of extra virgin olive oil.
  4. I add the burgers, and I cook on low temperature. I  let the meat slowly cook until ready to turn over.
  5. I add mushrooms and onions.
  6. When I see the hamburgers cooking fairly well, I turn the patties over again.
  7. I cook the hamburgers until there is no pink in the meat and when the mushrooms and onions are well done.
  8. I put cheese on top of the burger until it melts.
  9. I keep the burgers cooking on miminum
  10. I butter the buns with mayonnaise and cook in the toaster oven.
  11. I place the burger on the bun and add whatever condiments.

The taste is delicious, and the burgers are basically cooked in water with a bit of oil. A healthy choice for me.

My partner loves my burgers and I am ready to have my friends taste it. For more information or recipes click here.

As an avid runner, I watch my diet and I also make sure to include red meat because of my iron levels. Here is some additional information from Canadian Beef:

EXTERNAL LINKS 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

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CNN mocks indigenous New Zealand group in segment on royal visit

Sure, thousands of years of culture might have been snuffed out with colonialist expansion, but aboriginal groups around the globe have spent decades trying to reclaim what they can of a history that has been fractured and lost — in New Zealand one such indigenous group even took the time to meet with members of the UK and Commonwealth royal family upon a recent visit. But, alas, the story of a conquered people’s long road toward actualization in the modern world and peaceful meeting with modern representatives of their acquisition isn’t the story.

Nope, there was a butt.

butt 2

To truly understand the scope of the racism and flippancy around this meeting you have to watch the video by CNN where the commentator fixates on a part of a man’s body before going on to make fun of various world leaders who have taken the time and innitiative to connect with other groups on their terms. Hilarious.

Of course there is always room for cheeky news and a side-eyed view of current events — most telling is the Maori’s total disregard for what might be considered proper for Princes and Dutchesses, it is possible they’re getting a good laugh out of the coverage — but to have your culture mocked simply because you don’t adhere to Victorian shamefulness around showing your bum can also be quite hurtful.

What stings the most is the shocking omission of the story that could have been told here.

The story could have been one of redemption for the royals, one of forgiveness from the New Zealand tribesmen, one of the meeting of old and new, north and south in the 21st century.

But no, there was a butt.


Tell us what you think, was the CNN segment racist or are we overreacting?