For Evaluate It by SQM Inspectors -  

Blogs

05
Aug

A Weekend in London

Through the eyes of Julia...

If you are a first time visitor, London can be quite overwhelming with so many attractions, sites and restaurants. Here are the iconic tours, attractions, and restaurants you must visit for an authentic London experience.

Tours:

The Hop-on Hop-Off bus is a great way to cover a lot of ground while learning about this historic city but if you prefer walking or have a tighter budget, SANDEMANs NEW London Tours is another great option. For an adrenaline filled tour,London RIB Voyages is highly recommended and is ranked #1 on TripAdvisor for a reason!

Take the 80 minute Thames Barrier Explorer’s Voyage to see every major sight the Thames has to offer aboard an exhilarating 630hp speed boat. The company's award winning guides are stand-up comedians, actors and performers by night – not to mention total history buffs!

For those with quality cameras or an interest in photography, a “Hairy Goat Photography Tour” is a must. This tour is yet another great way to see London's historic and iconic attractions and the skilled tutor/tour guide can provide excellent tips to improve your photos.

Sightseeing:

London is full of culturally rich monuments, buildings, parks and markets. If you are not a fan of taking city tours, here are a few sites you must visit during your stay:

  1. Elizabeth Tower at the north end of the Palace of West Minster, also known as “Big Ben” and the houses of parliament.

  2. The iconic Tower Bridge, built from 1886-1894.

  3. Buckingham Palace which is open to the public for tours during the summer months while the Queen is on her annual vacation in Ireland.

  4. Kensington Gardens to enjoy the immaculately maintained landscaping and water features that have been featured in many films.

  5. The London Eye to get the breathtaking birds eye view of London from a maximum height of 433ft!

  6. St Paul's Cathedral to appreciate the detailed architecture, moldings, gilding and ornate artistry within.

 Food:

From lite breakfasts such as delicious coffees and scones, to full brunches of Nutella crepes, stacked hot cakes or the English classic; fried eggs, tomatoes, beans, ham and toast, you must visit New London Cafe at least once during your stay.

For an inexpensive lunch, Tortellini Cup is the place to go for Italian fresh handmade pasta. London locals frequent this “fast food” pasta shop for a quick yet delicious bite on a busy day.

Next to St Paul's Cathedral, the famed Gordon Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen is the perfect lunch stop on a long day of site seeing. The restaurant has extensive a la carte selections and 3 course prefix menu options.

If you enjoy a hearty pie, you must book a lunch or dinner table at Green Pea, where portions are generous and the extensive menu choices are delivered verbally by the charismatic owner himself!

For your afternoon sweet fix, treat yourself to the best cookie in London at Ben's Cookies. You can sample their menu of fifteen decadent flavours baked daily with classic to unique flavours like lemon and coconut cookies.

When in London, an afternoon high tea is an essential experience. Visit the Tea Room at Harrods or Chateau Dessert for a five star dessert selection to accompany your afternoon tea.

I hope this guide helps. Enjoy the weekend!

 

30
Jul

My Perfect Day In NYC on a Budget

Through the eyes of Julia...

New York City has always been a place close to my heart, as I frequented it on many weekends growing up. Over the years I've come to appreciate the mix of big city life and quieter neighborhoods and found my favourite go-to spots. Here is what my perfect day on a budget would look like in the Big Apple.

As an avid follower of Wafels & Dinges's mouth watering Instagram account @waffletruck, I would start my day by calling their “Hot Wafeline” (866-429-7329) to locate where I can find one of their food trucks that morning. Their menu sports 10 “dinges” (toppings) and a variety of customizable sweet and savoury waffles featuring specials such as pulled pork, maple syrup and bacon or homemade ice cream and Nutella sauce.

After such a decadent breakfast, I'm ready to head over to my favourite yoga studio called Om Factory to channel my inner Cirque-Du-Soleil star in a beginners aerial yoga class. Aerial yoga is unique mixture of soothing yoga and a fun circus-type class. You will learn how to suspend yourself and do tricks using aerial silks and if you can make it to a Community Class, it's only $10!

All that stretching suspended mid-air has worked up my appetite and I'm ready for lunch; the best lobster roll in the State is from Red Hook Lobster Pound food truck. To find them, check them out on twitter (@lobstertruckny). After lunch, it's time to stop by Crumbs for the best gourmet cupcakes you'll ever have. With “colossal” cake-sized cupcakes to miniature “taste” size treats, there is the perfect amount of indulgence for everyone. The menu boasts 18 decadent flavours with their trademark fillings at the “signature” size. Their unique flavour options include Apple Cobbler, Grasshopper Classic, Dippin' Dots Delight, Milkshake and Cookie Dough!

After all that sugar, you'll have tons of energy and the High Line is the perfect place to burn it off. Elevated 30 feet overhead on a historic, abandoned railroad the High Line is now 1.5 miles of green retreat in the city. Highlights along the path include the nearby Hudson River, numerous ever changing art installations and the Diller—von Furstenberg Sundeck & Water Feature where you can relax in reclining sun chairs or wade into the inviting water.

Along the High Line is the Chelsea Market, one of the world's greatest food halls with 35+ vendors selling artisan goods, such as clothing, jewelery, specialty cheeses, nuts, produce, meats and desserts. The market is worth a walk through and you can enjoy some dinner by nibbling from a variety of vendors or sitting down at one of the outdoor cafés for a lite bite.

Around the corner from the market, you can partake in outdoor Sunset Salsa Thursday nights at 6 and bonus – it is free! Enjoy a dance lesson in the fabulous Meat Packing district followed by a dance party with New York’s top Latin DJ’s.

New York City has everything to offer at every price range and it definitely cannot be done in one day. Every time I return I seem to find a new “must-go” destination but the places I have shared with you are hidden gems for enjoying a day like a true New Yorker.

 

16
Jul

Top Five Reasons To Travel

Through the eyes of Suzy...

 Everyone dreams about traveling and exploring new cities around the world. Other than the obvious reason of wanting to escape the endless amount of work hours and stress of every day life, why else do people want to travel? Here are five reasons why:

 1. It's a new challenge: What's better than leaving your comfort zone and taking on a new challenge? Many people love to face and enjoy the challenges of traveling in a new place. For people who are drowning in their daily routine, traveling may seem like a good idea.

 2. You get to learn about yourself: If you are never put in a position that forces you to think on your feet and protect yourself, you will never know how truly independent you can be. When traveling, you become very self-aware and self-sufficient.

 3. Expand Your Knowledge: You know how sometimes you feel as if you know enough in your life? For instance, after I finished my university final exams I felt as if I knew enough things to last me months, until I began traveling during the summer and realized that academic knowledge is nothing compared to the things I can learn while exploring the world.

 4. It gives you stories to tell: Traveling makes it extremely easy to grab the interest of people when you meet new people. When you have countless unusual stories from your traveling days, it becomes a piece of cake to sound interesting!

 5. It widens your understanding of other cultures: You may be well-aware of other cultures out there, but you won't truly experience it until you are a part of it. Although we will expect to come across different cultures when we travel internationally, you can be surprised by the different cultures and lifestyles within you own country.

 Whenever you travel, you realize how big the world is and how small you are in comparison.

 

09
Jul

How To Be Productive in the Summer

Through the eyes of Suzy...

With summer officially rolling in, I know how difficult it can be to resist the temptation of going out and having fun every single day. The weather is still chilly, but once you start basking in the sunlight, it will be incredibly hard to stay seated on your office chair for hours at a time. For those of you who have trouble staying focused or being productive, here are some tips that may help you procrastinate less during the summer!

1. Create Daily To-Do Lists: This is extremely simple, yet highly effective. You can write this on a post-it note or on a blank sheet of paper – it doesn't really matter as long as you can see it every day and cross things off of the list. For me, writing the list down on paper has proved to be so much more effective compared to thinking about the list in my head. The satisfaction of physically crossing something off your list when you completed the task will keep you motivated to finish your list.

2. Have The Right Mindset: Tell me something. Do you have dessert before dinner? How good would your appetite be if you had a big piece of red velvet cake before proper nutritious food? Working hard before playing requires the same mindset. To have that delicious piece of cake, you need to eat dinner first. As in, to have a couple of drinks with your buddies – for example – you need to get your work done! If you finish whatever you have to do and reward yourself after, you will feel extremely accomplished.

3. Take Breaks: This may seem contradictory to what you are trying to accomplish, but think about it. If you're burned out all the time, you are not going to get stuff done! Your brain and body needs occasional breaks to recover from working hard. Go on a short jog to clear your head or simply lie down on your bed for a few minutes.

4. Listen To Audiobooks On Your Commute: This one is something that I recently started doing. To go to work, I have to commute for approximately 40 minutes. Instead of listening to music, I gave audiobooks a try. So far, it has been amazing in terms of motivating me to work harder during the day. Search up audiobooks in the Self-Development category and you will find a variety of helpful ones to choose from!

15
Jun

Sightseeing During the 2015 Pan Am Games

Through the eyes of an intern....

 As Toronto waits to welcome tourists from around the world during the Pan Am Games, you should be putting together a list of places to visit while you're in Toronto. Here are a few of the must-see attractions around the city:

 Ripley’s Aquarium: The gigantic aquarium is home to more than 13,500 marine species. A visit there will surely get you up close and personal with diverse sea life; from corals to cuttlefish and sand tiger sharks to sea turtles. The aquarium focuses on conservation issues and provides an interactive educational experience.

The Royal Ontario Museum: The ROM is among the world’s leading museums of natural history and world cultures. It offers a wide-range of collections that draws in people from all over the world.Trust me, the ROM won't disappoint.

The Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre: The centre houses, preserves, and displays over 1,000 artistic, cultural, and historical artifacts from a millennium’s worth of Islamic history. It aims to expand visitors’ understanding of Muslim and non-Muslim communities through exhibitions, libraries, cultural, and educational events.

 CN Tower: Stretching over half a kilometer into the sky, the CN Tower is Toronto’s tallest and most defining landmark. Take the chance to see a breath-taking aerial view of one of the world's most beautiful cities.

Kensington Market: This market is a distinctive multicultural neighbourhood in Downtown, Toronto. It's an old neighbourhood and one of the city's most well-known. Should you need a souvenir from your trip to Toronto, then make sure you visit Kensington Market.

Harbourfront Centre: This is where the world comes together in one place throughout the year. The centre features concerts, dance performances, readings, films, and kids’ shows every weekend and many week nights throughout the year. It emphasizes culturally diverse acts, and the corporate community’s involvement enables an incredible draw of international talent.

This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. There area ton of other attractions throughout the GTA.

 

 

 

15
Jun

The 4 Fool Proof Recipes You Need This Summer

Through the eyes of Julia....

With the summer social season upon us, we are sure to find ourselves wondering what we should bring to the neighbourhood party, the office BBQ, or family potluck dinner. Below are the four easy recipes that will solve any culinary need you may have this summer.

 1. An Easy Appetizer:

 7-Layer Dip

 Difficulty: *

 Prep Time: 15 mins

 This Mexican inspired dip is always the first appetizer to go at picnics and parties. You can customize the layers if you wish, but the secret to success is serving the dip in a shallow dish to ensure each layer is thin for dippers to experience all the flavours in every bite.

 Starting from the bottom in half inch layers:

Refried beans

1-2 diced tomatoes

Sour cream

Salsa

Guacamole (make ahead tip: add the guac as the top layer the day of serving to prevent browning)

Grated cheese

Optional Layers: black olives, diced red onion, and jalapeño peppers (for the truly brave!)

 Tortilla chips for dipping

2. One-Loaf-Does-All:

Zucchini Loaf With Streusel Topping

Difficulty: **

Prep Time: 15 mins

Cook Time: 60-70 mins

This sweet and savory loaf amazes me with its ease of preparation and flawless results every time. The sour cream in the recipe is a healthier option than butter or lard adding moisture and density, while the cinnamon-brown sugar streusel topping makes a second piece irresistible.

2 cups flour
1 cup wholewheat flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups grated zucchini
1/2 cup sour cream

Optional: 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Topping:

1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted butter

  • Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately before combining

  • Divide mixture between 2 greased loaf pans

  • Combine the topping ingredients and sprinkle over each loaf

  • Bake at 350 for 60-70 min

 

3. A Light and Healthy Meal:

 Zucchini Noodles With Creamy Avocado & Cucumber Sauce

 Difficulty: *

 Prep Time: 15

 Cook Time: 5

This light and refreshing recipe is perfect as a side dish, or main course. Making zucchini noodles requires a spiralizer or a steady hand to slice the zucchini into long thin strips.

 2 zucchinis

2 tbs cooking oil

 5 cherry tomatoes

 ¾ avocado

 1 tbs pesto

 ¼ large cucumber

 1 tbs milk

 1 tbs olive oil

  • In a large sauce pan at medium heat, combine noodles, cooking oil and ½ cup of water

  • Cover and let simmer until tender (4-5 mins)

  • Slice the cherry tomatoes and set aside

  • Combine all other ingredients, blending until smooth

  • Top noodles with the sauce and tomatoes

4. Dessert!

Blueberry Pie with Sour Cream and Brown Sugar (adapted from Canadian Living)

 Difficulty: ***

 Prep Time: 35 mins

 Total Time: 2 hours 35 mins

This twist on a crowd pleasing classic will have people raving about your cooking skills. This pie is consistently sweet due to its unique streusel topping, and brown sugar and sour cream filling. Creating a delicious pie requires you take the time to chill the dough. Refrigeration allows the gluten in the flour to relax, which creates the perfect light and flaky crust.

Filling:

1 cup sour cream

1 egg

2/3 cup brown sugar

2 tbsp all-purpose flour

 1 tsp grated lemon zest

 1 tsp vanilla

 Pinch salt

 3 cups fresh blueberries

 Pastry:

 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

 1 tbsp granulated sugar

 1/4 tsp salt

 1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed

 1/4 cup ice water

 Streusel:

 1/2 cup all-purpose flour

 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

 1/4 tsp cinnamon

 1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed

  • Whisk together dry pastry ingredients, cut in butter using pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse crumbs

  • Drizzle in just enough ice water, tossing with a fork, to form ragged dough

  • Wrap in plastic and refrigerate 1-2 hours.

  • Soften pastry at room temperature (5 mins) after chilling. Roll out dough to fit your pie plate. Chill in pie plate (30 mins)

  • In bowl, whisk together filling ingredients, stirring in blueberries last. Scrape into pie shell. Bake at 425 (15 minutes)

  • Mix streusel topping together using fingers, sprinkle evenly over pie.

  • Bake at 350, covering crust with foil if browning too quickly (40 mins)

 

These four recipes have been tested to perfection and are a great addition to any party. Bon appetit!

 

11
Jun

Quality Customer Service: Some Insider Questions

 First impressions are often wrong, yet they are very important. A single action that wows a customer, especially a new customer, may go a long way to influence a favourable opinion about the business. A single mistake by a customer service associate can also completely turn-off a new customer. Perhaps nothing is more important in customer service than getting it right at the first attempt.

 It's common to see customers rate the same customer service associate differently, from 'very good' to 'very poor'. From my experience as a customer service associate, I know how much first impression counts. It can either win you friends or earn you enemies. I've had some customers asking for a feedback form to compliment or criticize my service quality. Occasionally I go out of my way to go the extra mile to meet customers' needs, probably because there's not a high traffic of customers waiting to be served.

There are also times, especially when the shift is understaffed, where I am unable to pay adequate attention to some customers because of pressure from other customers waiting, getting impatient, and physically agitated. When faced with attending to customers who have been waiting for a considerable time, what will you do? There's this customer before you, they need your help with something that demands you being out of your desk for some time to attend to his need. Then there's this long line of other customers before you and they are eagerly waiting to be attended to. You know you're doing your best, but you're overwhelmed.

 Much has been said about seizing the moment of opportunity to wow customers and leaving lasting impressions with them. But when you are so pressured to the point that you are no longer in a position to deliver and your integrity is about to be compromised, how do you handle that? Quitting is not an option here. You love the job, you have a passion for it, you want to acquire the necessary experience and grow, but the environment isn't giving you the opportunity. What are the solutions?

 

09
Jun

Calling Out Customer Names Versus Customer Orders

Through the eyes of Kevin....

 The fast food industry is continuing to grow and expand in North America. As individual fast food restaurants, such as McDonald's and Burger King, receive hundreds or thousands of customers daily they have a way of keeping track of each customers' orders using a customer numerical system. Whenever a customer walks into the restaurant and makes an order, they are given a receipt with their order number on it. This is a system that most major fast food chains use in order to ensure that they are giving the orders to the correct customer.

 This numerical system involves the restaurant cashiers verbally calling out the order number on the receipt when the meal is ready. I believe that this way of delivering an order to a customer is not particularly effective since most customers don’t really look at their order number. Some other fast food restaurants call out the specific food order that the customer ordered. This method could be confusing since different customers may order the same or similar meals.

 A relatively new and popular way of keeping track of customers' orders that some restaurants are using is writing down the name of the customer on the receipt or on the meal order. For example, Starbucks writes the name of the customer on the cups to ensure that each order is given to the correct customer. This is a great way to keep track of a customer’s order because it's personalized. Also, a customer is more likely to hear and recognize their name than their order number.

Do you have any recommendations for how major fast food restaurants should handle customers' orders?

 

 

 

 

 

 

04
Jun

Putting Yourself in the Customers Shoes, Literally, and Figuratively

Through the eyes of an intern...

I had a conversation with a colleague of mine about an interesting story. There was a woman who lived in an apartment, in Toronto, and the pipe burstmaking a mess of her apartment. So, at first, you may think this issue is going to be handled by the insurance company, but the property manager downstairs gave the lady a $200 gift card as soon as this happened. It turns out the lady was out of work and was getting ready to go to an interview a few days later for a job. Her clothes were ruined and the guy wanted to make sure she could go purchase new clothing and a pair of shoes. It wasn't a matter of wanting to brush the situation off or bribe her with money as an apology, but he was genuine in wanting to help her out.

It is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, typically you don't think a building property manager would have customer service on their priority list. The second thing is a lot of people don't think that far ahead. Most of the time, they would be apologizing, cleaning up the mess, or calling the insurance company and that would be it. Instead, he handled this situation in a very generous and professional manner. He didn't looked at this person who just lives in an apartment, or as a number, but as an actual person with specific needs.

The moral of this story is that you never know where you will find good service and the second thing is to put yourself in the customers shoes literally and figuratively. In order for growth and expansion of one's business or company, managers must accommodate and treat every person equally and consistently provide quality and effective customer service in a friendly manner.

 

02
Jun

2015 Toronto Summer Events

Through the eyes of Suzy...

 1. Mac and Cheese Festival (June 5th – June 7th)

 This year, Toronto is hosting its first-ever Mac and Cheese festival at the Liberty Market from June 5th to June 7th. Come out to try a gourmet twist on a classic meal, while supporting FoodShare Toronto. If you want to try different kinds of mac and cheese, drink, and check out this event out this weekend!

 2. Redpath Waterfront Festival Toronto (June 19th – June 21st)

Good food, live music, ice cold drinks, and a waterfront view – what else can you possibly want? The Redpath Waterfront Festival is a fun event hosted along the Queens Quay to Lower Sherbourne. From a talent dog show to dance parties, this festival offers lots of fun for this summer!

 3. Summerlicious (July 3rd – July 19th)

 If you are a foodie, you probably already know what Summerlicious is. For those of you that don't know, Summerlicious is an event that is hosted by hundreds of Toronto's restaurants. It offers price-fixed three course menus for lunch and dinner, allowing people to enjoy fancy food for an affordable price!

 4. Canadian National Exhibition (Aug 21st – Sep 7th)

This is an end-of-summer event held at the Exhibition Place. You can indulge in a variety of good food, play games at the Casino, go one rides, win prizes at carnival games, or shop at great deals! Not only that, but you can also attend the events and concerts that the festival holds every summer!

 5. Scotiabank Buskerfest (Aug 27 – Aug 30)

 The Scotiabank BuskerFest is Toronto’s wildly successful international street performer festival – a showcase for hundreds of the most spectacular street performers on earth! Check out this event in Downtown, Torornto, and come out to support the performers and Epilepsy Toronto!

 6. Toronto International Film Festival (Sep 10th – Sep 20th)

 If you love to explore and watch new films, definitely consider purchasing tickets for the TIFF. Maybe you will get to see some of your favourite celebrities attending the festival! Most importantly, however, you will be able to see the amazing talent of many film producers.