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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.

 

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.

 

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!

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.

 

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.

 

Through the eyes of Amy...

Whether it is a Birthday or another other special occasion or holiday, a do-it-yourself gift is perfect to show someone that you care about them. DIY gifts are also not only fun to make, but can be very personalized to suit the receiver. Below are 5 awesome and easy DIY gift ideas!

Charming Necklace: Get some polymer clay, glaze, chains, an eye pin, and pliers for this do-it-yourself gift. With some polymer clay, make a charm that your friend would like, insert an eye pin at top of it, and bake it. Once the charm is cooled off, put some glaze on it for a shiny finish. Take the pliers and carefully attach the eye pin part of the charm onto the chain necklace.

Jar of Sweets: Get a jar, your friend’s favourite sweets, ribbon tape, scissors, glue, and a printer ready. Fill the jar with the sweets, wrap some ribbon tape around the lid of the jar, and for an extra touch, make a bow out of the tape and attach it to the circumference of the lid as well. Create a unique label on your computer, print it, cut it out, and stick it on the jar.

Decorative Cellphone Case: Get a clear or plain coloured cellphone case, E-6000 glue, and either some rhinestones or flat-back studs. Come up with a design that your friend would like, mark the cellphone case if need be, and glue the rhinestones or studs onto the cellphone case.
Studded Top: Get a top, some studs, pliers, and an x-acto knife at ready. Make small slits in the fabric near some seams of the top with the x-acto knife before inserting the studs. After inserting the studs, use the pliers to press the prongs of the studs securely into the fabric. More complicated designs, use fabric chalk as a guide. An alternative way to make a studded top is to use studs with flat backs and E-6000 glue.

Cabochon Earrings: Get some clear glass cabochons, surgical steel posts, earring backings, glaze, E-6000 glue, a small brush, scissors, and a small patterned design printed on paper. Firstly, make sure that the cabochons, steel posts, and the patterned design are of the same diameter. With the small brush, paint some glaze on the back of the cabochon, and place the cabochons onto the cut patterned designs. Stick the creation onto a steel post with glue. Repeat these steps for another earring. Add earring backings to complete the gift.

Through the eyes of Shay...

 

Summer is only a month away, and before we know it, the sun will shine, the flowers will bloom, and the festivities will begin. Toronto is notorious for throwing great events and bringing people together for celebrations.

Whether you listen to Electronic Dance Music (EDM), Rock, Hip Hop, or even Jazz, each festival offers a vast selection of music. Below, is a list of some of music festivals that are happening around the GTA this summer:

Field Trip: Saturday June 6th& Sunday June 7th

This event is located at Fort York. This festival has a little something for everyone; the lineup covers folk, pop, R&B, jazz, and indie groups. In addition to the music, this festival highlights Toronto’s best culinary offerings, art, photography, technology, and fashion.

Bestival: Friday June 12th- Saturday June 13th

This two-day festival is held on the Toronto Island, at Hanlan's Point Beach. You either have to be over the age of 16 or be accompanied by an adult over the age of 30. Not only is the lineup great, but this festival is unique because it combines EDM headliners with other genres. Some of the headliners include Florence + The Machine, Nas, Caribou, Clean Bandit, and more!

NXNE: Wednesday June 17thSunday June 21st

Returning for its 20th year, NXNE is celebrating nine days of jam-packed events and concerts located in multiple venues around downtown Toronto. NXNE also offers events in film and comedy programs. You can watch free performances at Yonge-Dundas Square throughout the festival. Be sure to walk around, play some games, and win some free stuff!

TD Toronto Jazz Festival: Thursday June 18thMonday June 29th

This is a ten day annual event is located at the Nathan Phillip Square, with over 1,500 musicians and an audience of 500,000. You can expect music from array of musicians from high-school and college bands, to unleashing your creative side with workshops at Groove & Graffiti, led by Mediah and Elicser, two of Toronto’s top aerosol artists.

Digital Dreams: Saturday, June 27th- Sunday, June 28th

This is one of Canada's largest EDM festivals and it is being held at the The Flats at Ontario Place. To buy tickets for this festival, you have to be over the age of 16. The lineup includes  Zedd, Armin Van Buuren, Carl Cox, and Pete Tong, and many more!

Warped Tour: Friday, July 17th

Warped Tour will be held at the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. This event showcases alternative and punk rock music. The all-day festival features over 100 bands including some of the biggest artists in the rock genre. During the tour, you can sign up and get music lessons from a range of artists.

WayHome Festival:Friday July 24thSunday July 26th

The producers of the Bonnarro Music Festival, one of the most popular music festivals in the world, are holding this event in Toronto at the Burl’s Creek Event Grounds outside of Barrie. Some headliners announced are Sam Smith, Kendrick Lamar, Alt-J, Modest Mouse, and Hozier, along with nearly 100 more artists. It will be worth the long drive!

Veld: Saturday August 1 & Sunday August 2nd

This EDM festival has a similar to Digital Dreams. This two-day concert at Downsview Park will feature shows from artists including Deadmau5, Steve Aoki, The Chainsmokers, and Hardwell. Get your tickets before they sell out!

Riot Fest: Saturday September 19 - Sunday September 20

Coming to Toronto for its second year, Riot Fest offers a weekend of punk and rock music. One of the most unique things about this festival is that carnival rides will be set up for everyone to enjoy. Take advantage of watching some of your favourite bands perform while riding on a carousal.

Take advantage of the early bird tickets, and most of all, take advantage of the summer sun in Toronto. You don't want to miss out!

Through the eyes on Shay....

 

For those of you who don’t know, a ‘bucket list’ is a list of places, events, or personal goals that someone wants to accomplish within their lifetime. There is no such thing of having small, silly, or for that matter, too many dreams! Life is a wonderful gift and it’s never too late to turn those dreams into a reality.

Below, are some of the things that I want to cross off my bucket list:

Travel:

The furthest I have traveled from Canada is back to Iran, my home country. Aside from that, I have took a road trip to Buffalo, New York twice; once for a shopping trip at the Walden Galleria, and another time for an indoor rock concert. Some places that I wish to visit are: Veradaro, Cuba; Paris, France; Rome, Italy; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Sydney, Australia.

Swim With Dolphins:

Dolphins appear to be very friendly mammals, but I have a slight fear of the unknown. If I were to cross this off from my list, that would mean that I traveled, swam with dolphins and tackled a fear. Three birds with one stone.

Bungee Jump:

Jumping off a bridge sounds frightening, especially if you are scared of heights. The most adrenaline that I felt was on roller coasters at Canada's Wonderland. I want to take it up a notch and get the full experience at the Great Canadian Bungee in Ottawa.

Run a marathon:

Staying in shape is one of the hardest commitments. It’s one thing to be fit, but it’s another to be fit enough to run a marathon. Supporting a charity is also important to me, and I think that this will give me the drive to one day complete a marathon (maybe in first place!)

Do The EdgeWalk at the CN Tower:

Although I can sign up for this any day during the summer, it’s not that easy. One must mentally prepare to walk 1,168 feet above the ground for 1.5 hours. This would be a thrill of a lifetime that I want to experience.

Para-sailing:

Here is another adrenaline activity on my list. The idea of flying across the ocean and getting a chance to see the world below me from thousands of feet in the air, excites me.

Eat Sushi in Japan:

I consider myself as a foodie. As you can already guess by the sub title, sushi happens to be my favourite dish. It will be a neat experience to not only explore the Japanese culture, but a chance to eat some of the best sushi in the world.

Concert in Another Country:

Even though I mentioned that I went to Buffalo for a concert, I want to have the experience of going to a concert in a country that speaks a completely different language. Why? I think it’s amazing to know that although we might be separated by a language barrier, I would be surrounded by people who know every lyric to my favourite songs!

Create My Own Makeup Line:

Personally, I am a big fan of makeup, and I can't get enough. I am always on the hunt for new products that work well with my face. As a creative and detail oriented person, with years of experience with makeup, I would be ecstatic if I had this opportunity.

What’s on your bucket list?



 

Through the eyes of Shay.....

 

Since flying for the first time can be nerve-wracking, we have continued our previous blog post about tips for first time travelers. There are several many elements and details that go into planning and packing for your trip. We have narrowed down five easy tips to make your process quicker:

1) Make a List:

Jot down all the things that you need to pack from clothing, shoes, beauty products, and accessories. Some commonly forgotten items include tooth brush, hat, socks, band-aids, and vitamins. You don't want to board the plane and remember that you forgot something back at home.

2) Travel-Size:

It is important to have all the essential toiletries to keep fresh and have a smooth journey. To fit everything in your luggage, be sure to purchase travel sized items to save room for other important things.

Once you have your travel sized items, pack similar products together in a zip lock bag. A few examples would be of pairing items include electronic wires and makeup products. This way, it will be easier to find and quicker to use.

3) Pre-Plan:

Plan out your outfits ahead of time. You should have an idea of the places you want to visit and the activities you want to do during your trip. If you are going to a destination that has a cooler climate, consider bringing at least four sweaters, three pairs of jeans, a light jacket, and a few tank tops to mix and match. If traveling to an all-inclusive resort, consider packing dresses, shorts, shirts, and perhaps a couple of sweaters just in case you get chilly.

4) Tuck and Roll:

When packing a luggage or a carry on, be sure to roll your clothing together to create more space for other things. If you don't have time or a place to do laundry, consider bringing a sturdy plastic bag to place them until you return back home. And always remember; pack heavier items first then lighter items at the top.

5) Important Documents:

When packing these documents (i.e. passports, ticket confirmations, boarding passes, etc) be sure to place them all in one folder or bag that will be in a bag or carry-on that you will keep with you. This to ensure you will not misplace them.

6) Get Colorful:

Be sure to buy a tag for your luggage to write down your name, number and email just in case it gets lost in the process. If your luggage doesn’t stick out with a standout colour or design, then, place a ribbon with the colour of your choice onto the handle of the luggage to help differentiate your luggage apart from others.

Hope these tips have helped. Safe travels, everyone!

 

Traveling is always great. You get to create great memories and experiences. But it's very easy to have these replaced with unwanted problems and pressure, the very things you want wanted to get away from in the first place. Here are the top eight precautions anyone should take to avoid problems and travel securely while out on an adventure.

1. Passport Management:

This is the most important document while you're traveling and having some sort of contingency plan for if it gets lost will ensure peace of mind. Before traveling, have 3 copies of your passport information made. Leave one copy with a close acquaintance and take the rest with you. If you happen to lose your passport, you still have access to the information which embassies require.

2. Travel Insurance:

Another item that offers the peace of mind, having insurance will ensure that in the event something goes wrong (especially with your health), you're covered and don't have to pay extra fees and suffer long waiting periods.

3. Don't Put All Your Eggs In One Basket:

How easy it is to be able to access all that you need in one simple place. Yet this convenience has its risks. Be sure to keep your carry-on items categorized according to importance. Have the more important cards (credit, debit, health insurance etc.) separated from the less risky ones like your driver's license. Even if you lose the latter, you may still have your scanned copies with the information. Keep cash separated as well. Have small bills in easily accessible areas while the large bills reside in more secure places.

4. Call A Friend:

Leaving for vacation can put your home at risk of break-ins. There are several precautions you can take. Some include expensive sensory and alarm systems. However, some may cost little to nothing. These include things like informing a trusted neighbor and asking them to keep an eye out, canceling your mail temporarily (if on an extended trip) or even buying a “Beware of Dog” sign even if you don't have a dog.

5. Update Your Information:

Wherever you decide to go, be sure to stock up on information on the place you're visiting. Recent news events, local etiquette, environmental conditions and medical checkups etc are all good areas to be knowledgeable about.

6. Keep valuables hidden:

Whenever traveling abroad, there's always a real possibility of a 'slash-and-snatch' thief to strike. Do not have your phone or cameras hanging out. Such actions can attract thieves like a magnet. While it may be inconvenient to have to take them out all the time, its certainly better than the inconvenience of having them stolen. This is generally applicable when traveling out on streets and roadsides but may apply to some indoor areas as well.

7. Beware Public Wi-Fi:

Its always a great convenience to have access to public Internet in cafes. It can be tempting sometimes to make credit card transactions with the convenience offered but keep in mind that you have no knowledge of how secure these terminals are. They may have viruses and key-logs that can record your data and allow unauthorized access to it. For emails, do not use your primary ones. Use one that is specifically intended for travel instead.

8. Backing Up Photos:

Make it a point to backup your photos on a daily basis each day you take pictures. If you don't and your phone or camera gets damaged or stolen, you'll lose all those great moments. Carrying a small hard drive for this purpose can help greatly.