An Easter Egg Hunt for the Dog?

Happy Easter to those who celebrate!  While we promise we are NOT those crazy people who pretend their pet understands religious holidays and traditions, we just thought it would be fun to honour a holiday which combines two of his FAVOURITE things: bunnies and eggs.

We decided to nix the bunny... mostly because Barkley has a high prey drive and we didn't want to risk the life of a bunny on Easter.  That still left us with eggs though and those of you who read my post on feeding raw know that they are one of his favourite foods!  Our place is already a disaster because of all the packing boxes so we decided to embrace the chaos... and the eggs and plan a good old fashioned Easter Egg Hunt!

I hard boiled the eggs and decided to dye them using natural homemade dyes like the ones in this post.  Obviously, I eliminated ingredients which are toxic to dogs like grapes, wine, coffee and onion skins and I decided to focus on dyes using Barkleys favourite foods.  I completed this step yesterday and I completely forgot to take pictures so I will explain the basic steps:

For easy clean-up (because 1, we're packing and 2, this is for a dog who is likely colourblind anyway.) we decided to make only two different dyes and to play with the length of time each egg spent in the dye.

For my green/ blue dye, I used spinach and blueberries and for my yellow/orange dye, I used carrots, some beet juice and turmeric.  We combined the ingredients with water and simmered in a small pot for about an hour or so.  Once the colour was deep enough, we removed it from heat, added a couple of drops of vinegar and dropped in the eggs.

I used brown eggs since I can never find free-run white eggs at the local grocery store so the colours are a little muted and we did find that the eggs needed to be left in the dye for a long time.  Still, we managed some colour and, I'll remind myself again that this step was only for me since I don't think dogs see colour anyway!  

Not bad, right?  The best part of using this method was that, after we dyed the eggs, Barkley could eat the spinach, blueberries and carrots!

And then the fun part: hiding them and making Barkley find all those delicious eggs!  We used our packing boxes since Barkley tends to lack motivation and I was worried that if he didn't find them easily, he'd just go back to bed.  Typical greyhound!

Even with our easy set-up, it took a couple of tries for him to actually pick up each egg and he needed help a couple of times.  It's hard for a dog with an overbite to pick up small objects!

I wasn't going to post about this because, quite frankly, the subject matter is ridiculous.  I mentioned it casually to some girlfriends last night and, maybe it was the wine, but they thought it would be an amazing idea for a blog post.  In hindsight, I'm almost certain it was the wine talking. :)  Oh well, enjoy what's left of the long weekend!


New Business Cards!

Side 1

Side 2

I recently received my Real Estate Broker designation and it was time for new business cards!  I actually decided to completely re brand them to reflect my own personality and style better.  I'll be sending hard copies with the next "snail mail" version of my newsletter.

My old business card (below) is attractive and it was fine when I started but I've been wanting to try something different for a while!  I had originally wanted a black card since it is strong and it stands out so well.  It wasn't long before I wished it had a lighter side because I would occasionally like to add additional information or even circle a phone number... which was obviously impossible on the black.

My slogan has remained the same since the vast majority (not all, mind you) of my clients have really liked it.  I did change the the fonts and ``general look``, as well as including the stylized name which was created for me by the talented Barbara Ann Soloman of Barbara Ann`s Style Blog and Fashion Magazine`s Style Panel.  The signature she designed for me is now a focal point of my personal branding and you can see it below.


So what do you guys think of the new business card?  Do you like the picture on the front?


Is a Casino in Toronto a Good Idea?

If you`ve been following the news regarding the proposed casino in Toronto, you already know it`s incredibly controversial. 

MGM and Cadillac Fairview have been lobbying non-stop for their proposed venture.  They say
 that the tourism, extra money spent in the city and 10,000 jobs (not to mention 4,000 construction jobs) make the proposal to build a massive casino on the Exhibition grounds a good idea for Torontonians.  Let's not forget the fact that we already have nearby gambling at the Woodbine Racetrack.

Toronto residents seem to have another view and are concerned with the idea of increased traffic and building costs, not to mention the social threats to those who suffer from addiction.

Residents of trendy Liberty Village are also concerned with the impact to local businesses and the fear that their neighbourhood may become essentially a giant parking lot.  Jane Siklos, Vice Chair of the Liberty Village BIA Advocacy Committee, mentions that historically, areas that border on casinos suffer drastically.

For those who reside in other neighbourhoods, imagine for a second that a major "tourist attraction" were proposed in your neighbourhood.  How would you feel? 

Considering that Toronto already has shocking commute times, imagine the idea of extra traffic congestion, a potentially seedy undercurrent, financial difficulty for small local businesses as well as the extra pollution (noise and light) as well as littering... it's not difficult to understand why area residents are up in arms!

From a real estate perspective, I don't think a nearby casino will mean a positive change in nearby property values.

While other cities call us naive and roll their eyes as "Toronto The Good" fights against the building of a giant casino, I am a little surprised to find that I agree with those opposing it and would prefer to keep our city G-Rated, family friendly and casino-free!  What do you think?
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Craigslist Score - Part 3!

You guys have responded so positively to my other "Craigslist Score" posts that I wanted to continue the series.  While we may run out of items in our two bedroom condo, perhaps I'll indulge in a little Craigslist treasure hunting in the new house!

We found this funky orange chair to suit our swingin' 70's living room decor.  We've had it for about three years and, aside from the fact that it's bring orange and really comfortable, we've never given the $30 Craigslist purchase another thought.

I "googled" it for this post and found that it resembles Pierre Paulin's Orange Slice Chair.  My design friends will cringe when I admit that I had no idea it was a well known piece.  What I've always liked about our chair is that it seems to change shape depending on the angle.  I discovered through my reading that this is a design feature of the orange slice chair.  Call it dumb luck! 

Now, I don't pretend our is an original because I am a far cry from a furniture appraiser.  However, our chair is clearly vintage and, while knockoffs of this chair pollute the internet now, I'm not sure it was a heavily copied piece back then.

If our chair is the real deal, it could be quite valuable.  I'm sure it depends on other factors like the condition or even manufacturer's markings but here are a few listings I found for the orange slice chair:

This link on RetroStart lists it between $750 and $1,000.  It is the lowest price I have seen online.

The Find lists it at $2,801.

As I would expect 1st Dibs lists a pair for as much as $14,000.

Even at the LOWEST estimate of between $750 and $1,000, I'd say it's not bad for a $30 chair!

We have been very lucky with Craigslist but I don't possess any special skills or designer knowledge so there's no reason you can't be lucky too.  We've done quite well just purchasing things that we thought were cool and unique and we have never bothered specifically searching for commonly replicated iconic furnishings.  Our Tips:
  1. Don't purchase items just because you think they may be worth something.  Not everything is and we only purchase things that we genuinely like and will fit with our decor.
  2. Establish a theme and shop within that theme.  Craigslist is overwhelming if you don't have direction.
  3. Scan often and use keywords that match your theme.
  4. Don't expect to find iconic pieces at crazy low prices.  We look for pieces from a particular era that look well made and have interesting design features.  Chances are, if someone is selling a genuine Eames Rocker, they are pricing it accordingly.
  5. Don't expect to find a treasure every time you look.  There's a lot of junk out there too.
Popular blog, View Along the Way also lists some helpful Craigslist tips.  Just keep in mind that it is important to be cautious as well.  Read this article and avoid some common Craigslist scams!

I'd love to hear about any of your "Craigslist or Thrift Store Scores" too.  Happy searching!
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Light vs Dark Kitchens

For those of you who read my blog regularly, you know that we are planning to move at the end of April. While we are thrilled for the actual move, we were both a little blue when we made the decision to postpone a kitchen renovation for the (more practical but admittedly less sexy) central air installation. As is the case for many buyers, for us, a limited renovation budget meant making a sacrifice to avoid breaking the bank.

That`s not to say that we won`t renovate our kitchen soon - Our plan is not to wait more than a year or so. Still, I thought that in the meantime, we could paint cabinets, perhaps invest in the odd new appliance and change the light fixtures. I already have a list of ideas...
This brings me to the topic of this blog post: Do you prefer a dramatic, dark kitchen or a bright, white kitchen?  Home design magazines and websites are filled with inspiring photographs of both.  We selected dark cabinets in our current condo (with butcher block counters to maintain some warmth) to provide a contrast against the light floors and walls throughout the rest of the unit.  You can see pictures of our current kitchen here.  While I like our current kitchen, I have wanted white cabinets for ages.  Our new kitchen will be roughly the same size (perhaps slightly larger) than our current kitchen and it is visible from the living room and dining room.  Eventually, I would like some open shelving since the space feels a little closed off.
I`ve been using the following two pictures to gauge my reaction to light vs. dark kitchens.  While neither kitchen is exactly my taste, (I like a little more colour and fun) they are both lovely.  I have some copper cookware from my father, which I would like to display and I`d like to add some warmth with wood shelving and a faucet in a brass tone.  Apartment Therapy also has several articles on kitchen trends which serve as inspiration.

 I`m leaning quite heavily towards white.  I may paint the existing cabinets white and live with it for a while to see.  Feel free to let me know which you would choose.
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DIY Geometric Bookends

Lately, many home accessories are taking inspiration from geometry.  Currently, anything honeycomb shaped is on trend but we're seeing all sorts of shapes in everything from textiles to dinnerware.  Last year, Apartment Therapy published a Round-Up of this trend.

I thought it would be fun to try on my own and I had some supplies left over from other crafts so i compiled the following list:

  • Polymer Clay (it's great because it doesn't crack easily in the oven)
  • Aluminium Foil (to keep my bookends from becoming too heavy and to help me stretch my clay a little further)
  • A cookie sheet (as a work surface)
  • A knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Gold Spray Paint
  • Acrylic Topcoat Spray Paint

I began by kneading the clay according to the directions.  For my larger piece, I rolled up a little aluminium foil and worked the clay around it.  This kept the weight reasonable and reduced baking time. 

I molded the clay into a rough cube.  I used the flat edges of extra cookie sheets to smooth the sides.  Once I had a decent looking cube, I began slicing off pieces with my knife.  I tried to keep my cuts as clean as possible and was careful to slice straight through as opposed to using a sawing motion.

Once I was finished, I baked my pieces according to the directions on the box.  I then allowed it to cool before sanding some of the rough edges.  I could have continued sanding to make perfectly straight edges, but I didn't mind a few imperfections and I knew most of them would be covered by paint. 

I used tape to keep the paint off the bottom of each piece.  Once the second coat of gold paint had dried completely, I sprayed it with a clear acrylic topcoat for added durability.


While I think they look neat on my mantle, I am looking forward to redecorating once we move and perhaps using these bookends for their intended purpose.  I think our new space will see less chrome and more warm metallic tones.
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Your Dream Home: How Do You Know When You've Found It? (Part 2)

Thanks to all of you for your questions and interest with respect to my last post.  It has been a busy day but I did promise to post about our new house today and it is finally the last thing on my "to do" list before I call it a night.

As you know, we had narrowed our search to four houses.  Here's a recap of the four (copied from my last post):

  1. The first house we saw was amazing. It was huge, located on an attractive cul-de-sac (a BIG plus for Corey, since he could already imagine our kids riding their bikes on the street!) and it backed onto a ravine... perfect for nature lovers like us! The kitchen needed work but it was huge and I had to stop myself from imagining how I would renovate it while I was there. It was our favourite house of the evening.
  2. The second house was not quite as large as the first house but it had a deeper yard. The house had more charm (old architectural details) but it was less open-concept so the rooms seemed much smaller than the first house. It did have some potential and I preferred the neighbourhood to that of the first house. It did not have central air but was otherwise a decent option.
  3. The third house was detached (a huge plus for us) and priced a little lower than the others. The layout seemed awkward to us and it smelled like cats. Still, there was plenty of space on the main floor and several different rooms. It had a garage (Corey loved that!) but there were several steep steps leading up to the front door. I'll confess that I pictured my clumsy self with a stroller one day trying to figure out how to get a baby up to my front door without slipping.
  4. The fourth house was in one of my favourite neighbourhoods. I know house prices in this neighbourhood are expected to rise and there's plenty of green space around and almost a small town feel! While the main floor was smaller that the other houses, the kitchen was huge and had space for a large island. This backyard was my favourite of the four. I was a little disappointed to learn that the basement was only partial (the front half of the house) and I felt vaguely uncomfortable while inside the house. I'm not a superstitious person by any stretch but this house just didn't feel good to me. That being said, I usually try to make decisions using logic.
Many of you guessed and I loved hearing your responses.  It is such a personal decision and it really is difficult to tell which house suited us best without seeing them.  I always hear that buyers will choose a house based on emotion and then use logic to support their decision.  For us, I noticed that we used a process of elimination... but when I examine our process, I do think that we eliminated houses based on emotion and then found factual support for our decision.  Here's what I mean:

We both really wanted to love house 4 (or "haunted house" as some of you referred to it) but I just couldn't shake the bad feeling I had about it.  I liked it best on paper but I just couldn't consider it seriously.  We ended up deciding that we really did want a full basement.  The fabulous backyard was neutralized by a funny smell wafting in (we think) from a local factory.  Before you guys start calling this the "smelly, haunted house" I must say that we probably just saw the house on a bad day.  I suspect the offensive odour is a non-issue 99% of the time.  Had we really been interested, we would have returned the next day.  Also, I am fairly certain the house isn't actually haunted.  I suppose we'll never find out for sure though...

House 3 was also really exciting on paper.  However, the driveway was so narrow, I was nervous that it would never accommodate a larger car.  Corey thought otherwise but he also thinks I'm a good driver so...  I also wasn't crazy about all the steep stairs leading up to the front door although I did say to Corey that if we loved the house, the stairs would be a source of exercise and if we didn't like the house, they would be a burden.  I think the interior just didn't make sense to us in terms of function.  There was space, but we couldn't wrap our heads around making it work.  There were also only two bedrooms upstairs and this was our minimum.  We decided to pass on House 3.

House 1 seemed like a larger version of House 2 and the selling features trumped those of the other three houses.  I think that after seeing House 1, it was difficult for us to properly assess the other houses.  It was big and fairly open and the bedrooms were very large.  I remember being upstairs and feeling my logical side fly out the window as I thought about how I could picture our future children in those rooms.  The one drawback was the yard.  We loved that it backed onto a ravine but the actual yard consisted of about three different elevations and would likely have required permits and heavy landscaping at some point in the future.  Still, we had fallen in love and were excited to make an offer.  I even spoke with the listing agent before we went to bed.

It was only the next morning that I woke up knowing that we were actually supposed to buy House 2.  Once Corey looked at my hastily gathered research (it was early and I still had to get to work.) he was on board as well.  House 2 was similar to House 1 (although smaller) but it's located in a neighbourhood we prefer.  House 2 doesn't have central air but it does have existing duct work.  Corey and I have decided to sacrifice an immediate kitchen renovation so that we can have a gas furnace and central air installed before the summer.  We actually discovered some bonus features which were not on our original list.  Here's what we ended up with:

  • Price (we wanted our mortgage payment to be similar to our current mortgage and maintenance fee total to ensure that we weren't overextending ourselves)
  • Freehold (detached, link, semi or townhouse)
  • Minimum 2 bedrooms
  • Excavated Basement
  • Neighbourhood (we were pretty general here and had narrowed our search to include several Toronto neighbourhoods)
  • Backyard (even a small yard was fine but we wanted some outdoor space of our own)
  • Parking for at least one car
  • Not on a busy or main street
  • A 3rd bedroom
  • A large kitchen
  • Central Air
  • 2 full bathrooms
  • Detached
  • 2-Storey
  • Garage
  • Deep lot with room to extend the house
  • Main Floor Family Room
  • Living Room Fireplace
  • Original Hardwood Floors
  • Attic (with potential to renovate)
So we managed to find all of our "needs", some of our "wants" and a few added "bonus" features and we consider ourselves to be quite lucky.  The house is a 1926 semi-detached with a parking pad but no garage and we have decided to compensate for the lack of garage by treating ourselves to a remote car starter this winter.  The kitchen is not large but it is certainly adequate and we will renovate it once it suits our budget.  The central air will probably be the first big improvement... and it will not be a DIY!  I've actually already started gathering quotes for the work.

We now have a HUGE list of projects which we will complete as our time and budget allow.  To give you an idea of some of the first few, (besides the central air) here's a peek:
  • Corey will need to update some of the electrical work.  Not a glamorous task but necessary and important.
  • We discovered original hardwood underneath the laminate and carpet.  Who has two thumbs and is excited to use a floor sander?  This girl! (I say with my thumbs pointing at my chest.)  Corey is skeptical but I'm going to attempt this project on my own.  I'm still not sure whether I want a dark, light or natural stain.  Our current condo has light floors but the dark dog fur really stands out against it.  Feel free to weigh in.
  • The upstairs bathroom is wheelchair accessible.  (Actually, the entire house is and we plan to donate the wheelchair lift and stairlift.)  We had considered just finishing the shower nicely but decided we wanted a tub.  I found a fabulous clawfoot on Craigslist which was being sold by a couple in Trinity Bellwoods who were also refinishing a 1926 house.  They had an extra clawfoot tub and I just couldn't resist.  It seemed so perfect finding a tub from the year our house was built!  It will need to be painted but I already have some ideas.
  • We have a lovely front porch which we would love to enclose to create a mudroom.  It would give us some storage for coats (the house does not have a coat closet) and I think we may have finally found a home for our church pew which currently resides in our dining room.
  • The back yard is begging for a new fence and some trees.  We want to plant some trees right away so we can enjoy some shade in a few years. 
  • Since I'm not budgeting for a kitchen renovation just yet, I'm thinking of purchasing a lovely hutch (A friend and client of mine is selling one and she was sweet enough to offer it to me.  She said it could use a "fresh coat of paint" :) ) and painting it white.  It would offer me some extra storage as well as a chance to display some of my pretty dishes.  The existing cabinets seem to be in good condition (although not my taste) so I'm thinking of painting them white and changing the hardware for now.
There's plenty more to do but these are the projects we hope to complete begin fairly soon.  Thank you all for the support and I hope you'll enjoy joining us on our renovating adventure.  I'm sure there will be mistakes, temper tantrums (me, not Corey) and plenty of fun along the way!
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