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Blogs

16
Jun

Save When You Shop at the Outlet Malls!

Through the eyes of Joshua…

The downtown core is the place to shop if you want to keep up with new trends. Unfortunately, it's also the place to shop if you want to go bankrupt. However, there are other ways to shop for your favorite designer brands without exhausting your wallet. Outlet malls, often located closer to residential areas around the city limits, offer a variety of stores selling their products at more affordable prices.
   
You may not always be able to find the latest pair of jeans or designer shoes, but outlet malls are a great place to shop for out-of-season or excess stock at an affordable price. The savvy customer may also be able to find further deals through marked down sales or by using a coupon book. Typically, coupon books can be found at an information kiosk in the mall. While coupon books may need to be purchased (though they can sometimes be offered for free), for those expecting to make some major shopping purchases, the resulting savings will certainly be worth the cost.
 
Despite the fact that outlet malls are located outside of the downtown core, they are neither small nor lacking in variety. Beyond the designer clothing and shoe stores, you can also find confectioneries, kitchenware, and book shops, among a variety of other stores.

Nearly every major fashion brand will have a store at an outlet mall, ensuring that one is rarely disappointed when looking for their favorite brand. Outlet malls are a great place to carve out your style while ensuring your wallet feels full from all the savings!

11
Jun

Top Five Emerging Restaurant Trends

Through the eyes of Joshua…

With Toronto's diverse multiculturalism, the classic fast food burger and fries are being pushed out by new ethnic restaurants and more up-scale, health-conscious establishments. We'd like to introduce you to a few new emerging restaurant trends making their way into the mainstream:

  1. Burger joints: Burgers have become associated with two things: low cost and lots of grease. However, this might be a dying cliché as restaurants are beginning to create gourmet burgers- a meal you can take pride in eating. These restaurants are focusing on promoting higher-quality ingredients (particularly the meat), and forgoing the plastic booths and kiddie playgrounds for a more sophisticated dining experience.
  2. Health foods: With the growing awareness of our society's obesity issue, new, health-conscious restaurants are beginning to emerge in an attempt to fight our fat and sugar-fueled diets. Alongside the growing popularity of vegetarian restaurants, many cafés are finding their niche with lunch meals, selling foods like paninis with organic ingredients, pasta salads, and a mind-warping range of free-trade coffees and organic teas.
  3. Burrito places: Mexican food is no longer limited to hard and soft shell tacos, but have branched out into alternatives like burritos. Served in wraps or bowls with meat such as steak, chicken, pork or sometimes fish, and packed with rice, beans, lettuce, and guacamole, the burrito is a great way to fill your stomach. 
  4. Middle Eastern food: Middle Eastern cuisine has taken off in Toronto. Moving beyond the subcategory of “Mediterranean cuisine” appropriated by Greek restaurants, the Middle Eastern food market has grown so much that chain restaurants are opening. These are great places to try something new, like stuffed grape leaves, hummus, or—an Iranian specialty—grilled tomatoes. 
  5. Asian food: While Chinese food is still a big draw and has certainly evolved past the fortune cookie, many other Asian countries are grabbing a piece of the restaurant market. Japanese ramen shops are ending the stereotype of ramen as only cheap college cuisine and instead are pairing them with quality soup broths, which is what ramen was originally known for. Another development has been the rise of Korean restaurants which has made kimchi a household name and recipe.

 

30
Dec

Welcome to 2014!!!

Everyone at SQM would like to wish you all a very happy and safe New Year.  We hope you have all had a safe and happy holiday filled with food, family, and friends.

With the New Year's festivities upon us, we would like to remind everybody to stay safe. Remember to put some extra cash away because it's not worth picking up your car keys when you know you have had a bit too much to drink. A taxi cab is only a phone call away.

Now that we are all back in the office, and into our regular routines after the holidays, we wanted to spice it up a little bit.

Every new year brings some changes. At SQM, we are seeing some changes within the company. We have also brought in some fresh interns that will be delivering blogs for all of our readers on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. In addition to this, we have launched another website for our mystery shoppers which can be found at www.evaluateitbysqm.com. Blogs will be released on this site every Tuesday and Thursday- focusing on ways to help you save! These blogs will be hot off the press and they will be posted on our social media platforms.

Speaking of social media, we have two Facebook and two Twitter accounts! We want to interact with all of our readers, so here they are:
We can be found on Facebook as Sally Sensors and Sensors Quality Management – Mystery Shopping.
Sally Sensors is a place to find our weekly deals and mystery shops in your area, while SQM will feature our blogs.

We can also be found on Twitter as @SQMInc and @Evaluate_It. @SQMInc is our primary account that will feature our blogs, while @Evaluate_It will alert all our followers about our daily deals!
We want to have an interactive experience with our readers, so don't be shy!  Let your voice be heard and let us know what you think.

23
Dec

Preparing for a Big Move!

Moving day can be a hectic, tiring, and stressful experience. Still, there are many ways to prepare for moving day that can help to ensure that the least amount of problems occur and allow for a smooth transition into your new home.

 

 

First, comes the preparation before the big day. You should always remember to make everything as easy as you can on yourself. One way of doing this is labeling all of your boxes and furniture with the appropriate rooms that they will be placed in. This makes your life easier because all of the heavy boxes and furniture will be carried over to their respective places, therefore ensuring that you don't have to lift these items again at a later time.

 

 

Now, you're probably staring at all of those boxes and furniture, wondering how you'll be able to carry them over to their respective places. Well, that's what friends and family are for... and moving companies, of course! Make sure you have made contact with everyone involved in the big day. This includes your friends and family members who will be helping you, moving companies, and of course, your real estate agent. Also remember to have your fully-charged cell phone handy, so that you can contact any extra hands that may be needed for the big move.

 

 

Secondly, when moving day comes, you need to be able to get up early. Be sure to leave the necessities out that are needed for the day. That means that you shouldn't pack up your toiletries and clothes just yet! Keep some cash handy for snacks to keep you and your movers (friends) happy. While full tummies keep everyone happy and energetic, it's also important to have a first aid kit handy to patch anybody up if it's needed.

 

Lastly, conduct a final inspection of the old place and ensure that you have not left anything behind! Make note of any items that become misplaced or damaged during the move and inform the insurance company of such losses. Also, remember to personally handle any confidential documents or valuables. Do not leave these in the hands of others- even if they're your friends.

 

 

Lastly, keep in mind that patience is a virtue. As long as you have the right attitude, the process should go smoothly.

 

18
Dec

Top Ten Family Activities to do Over the Holidays

Now that the holidays are officially here and the kids are finally out of school, you are probably wondering what to do with them for the next couple of weeks. Well, there are a bunch of activities you and your family can do to spend some time together! Whether you want to stay in and save a couple bucks, or hit the town with the entire family, we have got you covered in this week's top ten list of the best family activities to do over the holidays.

10. Deck the halls
If you haven't done so already, take some time with the kids to decorate the house for the holidays! No matter what you celebrate during the holiday season, the kids will have a great time decorating the house! It won't cost you anything other than what you spend on the decorations, so it'll be an affordable way to spend a day with the kids.

9. Play in the snow  
When I was a kid, I loved playing in the snow with my parents, so this is a virtually free way to bring joy to their winter vacation! If you're out shoveling for the day, start a mini-hill for your kids to slide down. It'll be a fun-filled day for all! Once everyone is on the verge of getting a little frost bite, head inside to warm up with some hot chocolate.

8. Head for the hills with a toboggan! 
Nothing beats barreling down a snow-covered hill on a toboggan in the middle of winter! If you are looking for something to do at virtually no cost, take your family to the nearest hill with a few toboggans and go nuts! Make sure that the kids are wearing helmets though, because those toboggans can go pretty fast!

7. Build a gingerbread house!
For about $10, you can head over to the grocery store and buy a gingerbread house kit. The kits usually include decorative candies and icing sugar, so you should be set for a day filled with sugary arts and crafts! If you need some extra candy to spruce up your house, the Bulk Barn is a great and cheap way to make it look festive.

6. Arts and crafts
If it's too cold outside to do any activities, stay inside and do some arts and crafts with the family. After a quick trip to the dollar store, you and the kids will have all you need to create little works of art. You can even have the kids make holiday decorations for the house. It doubles up as an activity and an affordable way to spread some holiday cheer!

5. Lace up the skates and go skating
During the winter months, community centers and outdoor rinks are filled with families and friends enjoying this classic winter activity. In most cases, admission to outdoor rinks is free, while rental costs for skates are relatively low.

4. Go for a walk on a trail
Canada is home to some of the most beautiful walking trails during the winter time, so bundle up with the kids and go for a long walk. If you're feeling adventurous, you can even rent a pair of snowshoes! Who knows, you may even see a deer or some other furry critters dashing through the snow. Remember to pack a lunch and some snacks if you're planning to be out for the day. It's a great way to sit in the snow and enjoy some food amongst nature.

3. Go for a swim
Taking the family for a swim at your local community center pool can be a great way to pass the time and remind everyone about the joys of summer weather. Try and look for a fully equipped facility- one that has both a slide and a hot tub, so that the kids and parents both have something to enjoy.

2. Holiday movie night
Looking to stay in as opposed to going out? If so, rent a movie or use your favorite online platform and pick out a few holiday flicks for you and the kids! Try mixing it up by finding some new holiday favorites that the kids will like, while renting a few classics from your childhood as well!

1. Hit the slopes
Whether or not you are into winter sports, skiing and snowboarding can be one of the most active things to do as a family. Try going to one of the smaller ski resorts where they have more novice slopes for the kids to learn on. Depending on where you go, family day passes and rental packages are usually moderately priced. If you're not too good on your feet, you can always hit the tubing hills! After everyone is tired, head over to the chalet and warm up with your hands by the fireplace.

16
Dec

Capturing every moment: Finding the right camera for your travels

Whether you are hitting the beaches of Cuba, or hiking up into Machu Picchu, a good camera is your best ally when looking to capture the moments and memories of your trip. Before you visit the nearest Best Buy or camera store to purchase anything, take the time to figure out what best suits your needs. Often times, when you're in a rush to prepare for a trip, people prematurely buy whatever camera they can get their hands on. It is not until they get to their destination that they discover that what they bought wasn't actually what they needed.

Take the time to do your research and shop around for a few different models. Also, take the time to ask yourself what you intend to get out of this trip. If you're going to Cuba for a week of drinking, dancing, and beach-bumming, then an expensive DSLR (Digital Single-lens Reflex) camera might not be your first choice. Instead, look into a smaller and more affordable “point and shoot” camera with 10 or 18 MP. These types of cameras offer great picture quality, are very easy to carry around, and cost much less than the more intricate DSLR's.

On the other hand, if you are looking to travel for an extended period of time and would like to create some sort of photo journal of your travels, perhaps purchasing a more expensive DSLR is the way to go. To start, ask yourself how much you would like to spend and what kind of pictures you would like to take. Since many DSLR cameras can be purchased with a variety of lens options, the price range can easily fluctuate into the thousands depending on the number of components you buy. DSLR cameras are also bulkier and will take up more space as you add on a number of lenses. If your trip itinerary limits you to the amount of things you can carry (backpacking perhaps), then it may be wise to leave the tripod and other lenses at home. When looking for a good DSLR, focus on the picture quality and the type of lens options available. Companies like Sony & Nikon make great DSLR's for the novice photographer, as well as the experienced photo journalist.

If you take the time to find out what camera works best for you, not only will you save money, but you will also be able to capture the moments of your trip to the best of your ability. If you are looking for some more advice, try checking out www.whatdigigitalcamera.com before you head into the camera store!

11
Dec

Top Ten Festivals Around the World

Are you making travel plans for the coming year? Well, we've just gathered our top ten favorite festivals all around the world and it's your chance to see them! Take a break from the ordinary sights and sounds of everyday life and immerse yourself in a wonderful experience. Where will your next adventure take you? South America? Europe? Asia? No matter where you go, we've got a festival for you to enjoy, so take your pick! 

1. New Year's Eve in Sydney, Australia

December 31st, 2013

The whole entire world celebrates the coming of the New Year, but amongst all of the celebrations, the most epic one has to be in Australia. If you want to catch all of the action, head over to Sydney's Harbor Bridge for an impressive display of fireworks. 

2. Up Helly Aa Fire Festival in Scotland

January 28th, 2014

This Scottish festival occurs on the last Tuesday in January and it features elaborate costumes and songs that come after the mock burning of a galley. The sight of the burning galley is one to behold especially against the dark black night sky.

3. Chinese New Year in China

January 31st, 2014

The Chinese New Year marks the beginning of the Chinese calendar. This two-week celebration explodes with large, colorful, puppet-dragons that run through the streets. There are also red lanterns that hang above the heads of people walking down the street. This joyous celebration will ring in the Year of the Horse. 

4. Rio Carnival in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

February 28th, 2014-Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

The Rio Carnival marks the beginning of Lent, which is part of the Easter celebration. Extravagant dance performances, floats, and costumes make their way down the streets for one of the most beautiful parades that you will ever experience.

5. Holi in India

March 17th, 2014

Holi is an Indian festival that is meant to be a day of joy, laughter, and love. This festival paints the streets of India while people roam around and throw colored powder at each other. The many different colors bring the city to life, so if you're looking for a bright and fun festival, Holi is for you.

6. Scarlet Sails in St. Petersburg, Russia

June 23rd, 2014

The Scarlet Sails tradition marks the freedom from school and rules! It's launched with a vibrant display of fireworks, music, and a water show that features different displays of ships that are lit up with beautiful lights.

7. Burning Man in Black Rock Desert, Nevada, U.S.A

August 25th, 2014- September 1st, 2014

The Burning Man festival is a radical event of self-expression that takes place over several days. The key features of this festival are the creatively crafted 'mutant' vehicles, song and dance, and the main attraction – a 100-foot wooden burning man.

8. La Tomatina Festival in Buñol, Spain

August 27th, 2014

What does a real, live, gigantic food fight feel like? Well, La Tomatina can give you a feel for a food fight, but you'll only have tomatoes as ammo! This amazing festival will have you painting the town red with thousands of other Spaniards that are pelting tomatoes at each other. 

9. OktoberFest in Munich, Germany 

September 20th, 2014-October 5th, 2014

Are you a beer lover? Well, you might want to pay a visit to Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest! Roam the streets of Munich to discover new beers, food and treats, and new friends. Beer and food? What a winning combo. 

10. Day of the Dead in Mexico

October 31st, 2014-November 2nd, 2014

The Day of the Dead is a time for people to gather, pray, and remember family members and friends that have died. It's a joyous and colorful celebration where people masquerade through cemeteries as the “dead”. People also offer up colorfully painted skulls and skeletons on the graves of their loved ones. 

Do any of these adventures sound exciting to you? Well, catch the next mystery shop flight out with SQM and save 50%off of your air fare! Visit http://www.sqm.ca/index.php/en/become-a-shopper.html to find out more!

29
Nov

Top Ten Swimming Spots Around the World

Planning a getaway for the holiday season? Well, if you love spending time in the water, we've gathered our top ten swim spots! Some places will satisfy your inner daredevil, while others will allow for the ultimate rest and relaxation in a wide open space of bright blue water. Take your pick from our list and take a dip!

1. The Devil's Swimming Pool- Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Located at the peak of Victoria Falls, the Devil's Swimming Pool is a formation of a perpetual stream. It is about 400 feet above the actual riverside but it is, during dry seasons, completely safe to perch at the edge of the falls. The streams have a natural rock barrier that prevents the current from carrying over anything over the edge of the falls. It offers thrills and an exciting view but more importantly, no fatal accidents have been reported, so safety shouldn't be a big issue. 

2. Mosquito Bay- Vieques, Puerto Rico 

This bioluminescent body of water is an experience to remember. Mosquito Bay is particularly beautiful during the nighttime when the bay reveals its phosphorescent inhabitants, which are just little glowing plankton that emit light in response to movement. Don't worry about the plankton because they are completely harmless! The salinity of the bay is also high enough so that you can just float around.

3. Sistema Sac Actun- Quintana Roo, Mexico

The Sistema Sac Actun is prominent for its cave diving sites. The Grande Cenote entrance leads to the underwater cave system where tourists can swim through and begin exploring. The temperature is relatively consistent through out.

4. Cenote Yokdzonot- Yucatan, Mexico

If you're looking for a daring dive, then the sinkholes of Yucatan are perfect for you. You can gain access to these beautiful waters by paying a small entrance fees to the locals. If you're not up to the daring dive, then you can take a dip in the shallow areas of the water.

5. Lubok Simpon- Pahang, Malaysia

Located amongst the most ancient rainforests in the world, this swimming spot offers a vibrant challenge with the current. Be sure to avoid the more precarious waters flowing at the other side of the bank!

6. Blue Lagoon- Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland is a cold region, but the Blue Lagoon is pleasantly warm. The geothermal heat conducted from beneath keeps the lagoon hot, averaging a temperature of around 38°C throughout the year. After a cold adventure, the Blue Lagoon serves as a great place to take a dip and rest your bones.

7. Big Sur River- California, USA

Big Sur can be found on the Central Coast of California. While the river has several swimming spots, the best spot is in the gorge, which sits at the bottom of the waterfall. Shallow spots en route the gorge are best suited for children and those looking for a fun, but simple swimming spot. 

8. Hearts Desire Beach- California, USA

Northern California's best swimming spot is Hearts Desire Beach, where swimmers enjoy its warm and shallow waters that run for long distances and provide safety against large waves.  

9. River Granta- Cambridgeshire, UK

Looking for a swim in British waters? The long and winding Granta River offers a quick way to get in and out with the use of a series of ropes that hang freely into the water. It's a fun way to go for a dip!

10. Pont Du Gard- Vers-Pont-du-Gard, France

Featuring crisp and clear waters, a Roman-esque aqueduct, and a wide river, this area makes for a great place to go for a swim. The accompanying beach allows for memorable picnics as well. The only rule is to avoid swimming under the nearby arches.

27
Nov

Top Ten Ways to get a Good Night's Sleep

Many people fight an ongoing battle every night with their bed. Have you ever felt like you just can't get to sleep? Between worrying about the trials of today, and the tribulations of tomorrow, it can be nearly impossible to wake up rested and refreshed. In order to help you get the best rest possible without the use of sleep-inducing drugs, we have put together our latest top ten list on the best ways to get a better night sleep. If you happen to suffer from insomnia (mild or severe), it is probably best to consult the advice of a doctor to improve your sleeping patterns. With this list, we simply want to provide you with a foundation for better sleep.

10. Put the computer and cell phone down...

Ever notice how you can feel tired, but be awake enough to stay on the computer until the late hours of the night? You may not notice it, but the light being projected from your computer and smart phone can contribute to you feeling more awake at night. To prevent this, put down your phone down and turn your computer off before going to bed, so that your brain isn't stimulated by the light coming from the screen.

9. Avoid over the counter remedies

Although over-the-counter sleep aids can help you get a decent night's rest, they will often cause your body to become dependent on the active sleep agent, making it difficult to fall asleep without it. Many over-the-counter sleep aids are marketed as “non habit” forming, but that is simply not the case. You may not experience withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking them, but they won't correct your overall sleeping pattern, so seek natural remedies first. If that does not work, consult your doctor.

8. Proper diet

Before bed, avoid eating any large, fatty meals that might be difficult for you to digest. and thus, keep you up all night, If you are going to eat something, make sure that it is light and free of excessive sugar so you don't get a rush of energy before bed. 

7. Reduce anxiety before bed

This may be easier said than done, but preventing pre-bedtime anxiety can be a detrimental factor in helping you get a restful night's sleep. Try practicing a variety of breathing techniques to help quell your mind before you go to bed. If that doesn't work, try various progressive muscle relaxation techniques that can help relax your body. If that still doesn't work, try venting to someone so you are not internalizing everything in your head before you go to bed. 

6. Quit smoking

If you are a regular smoker, you may be actively contributing to your inability to get a good night's rest. Since nicotine is a strong stimulant, it can disrupt your sleeping patterns if you are having a cigarette before bed. Withdrawal symptoms can even cause you to wake up in the middle of the night, craving a cigarette.

5. Avoid alcohol before bed

That glass of Merlot may look extra appetizing, but try to avoid drinking it before going to bed. Different forms of alcohol, like wine, can help you fall asleep faster, but they inevitably reduce the quality of your sleep. This will cause you to wake you up at random points during the night. 

4. Limit your nap times

Naps can be a good way to make up for lost sleep here and there, but don't replace a good sleep schedule with periodic naps during the day. Not only will this throw off your internal clock, it will leave you more tired and groggy than ever before. Keep naps to a 20 minute minimum so your body can get a quick recharge without entering full sleep mode. 

3. Have a sleep conducive room

Make sure that your “bedroom” is a comfortable and relaxing place to sleep. Many researchers recommend keeping the “office” and “bedroom” separate from each other. This way, you are not associating the anxieties of your office, with the peacefulness of your bedroom. Also, make sure that you have adequate blinds to keep the light out. Using those old bedsheets may be more affordable, but when the sun begins to rise early in the morning, you will be waking up with the roosters. Create a space in which you are comfortable enough to lay down and relax after a long day.

2. Exercise 

If you are having trouble sleeping, one of the best things to do is engage in a consistent routine of physical exercise. This will not only energize your body throughout the day, it will also tire out your body at night. Make sure though, that you do not exercise too closely before bedtime. Your post-workout energy will make it difficult for you to fall asleep immediately after a workout. To get around this, try working out in the early evening so you have time to shake off that post-workout energy and fall asleep soundly at night.

1. Set a routine

One of the most fundamental ways to get a better sleep at night is to create a consistent sleep routine. This entails, going to bed, and waking up at the same time everyday. If you are constantly going to bed and waking up at different times, you will throw off your internal clock, even if you are getting the same amount of sleep. If it helps, try keeping a sleeping log noting when you lay down for bed, and when you wake up in the morning. Setting a consistent sleep schedule for yourself is the best way to get a good nights rest.

09
Dec

Keeping a Balance - Moving from Credit to Cash

As the holidays roll around, more and more people will be swiping their plastic credit cards to purchase gifts for everyone on their list. After working in the retail industry for a number of years, I often noticed an increase in the amount of people who would use credit cards during the holiday season. I mean, I totally understand circumstances where you may need your credit card to buy the necessities that you cannot immediately afford, like food, but it also provides a false sense of wealth in those who depend on it more than they should. Unlike the physical cash that you have in your wallet, credit from the bank is not tangible. The card in which the credit is kept may be tangible, but the “money” contained within it is not. Subconsciously, the lack of a physical barrier between us and the “cash” often promotes over-spending of money that we do not actually have. 

As consumers, this reality should prompt us to differentiate between the things that we need, and the things that we want. Unfortunately, credit cards help blur this line by assuring us that we do have the “money” to buy the things that we “want”. The result – thousands of people are plunged into a debt that can be very difficult to get out of. Suddenly, the television that you thought you could afford on credit, is not something that you can pay for in reality. Before making any purchase on credit that is not considered a “need”, make sure you can pay it off as soon as possible! The longer you go without paying it off, or at least paying the minimum, the more interest it will accumulate. Thus, it will be harder for you to pay down overtime. Failing to make payments will also affect your overall credit score, making it difficult to get a loan in the future.

The key to maintaining a good balance between your credit and cash expenditures is knowing the difference between a want, and a need. Ask yourself, based on your income, what can you afford strictly on cash? If your bill's take up most of your income, don't make outrageous purchases on credit. Since most of your cash will be tied up in bills, there will be none left to pay down the credit. Strike a good balance between the two so you don't loose everything to money that technically “doesn't exist”.