For Evaluate It by SQM Inspectors -  

This is the third entry in our five-part series. If you haven't read the first two, be sure to take a look at it before reading this.

Now that you have found the perfect gift for your significant other, you need to think of where you can take that special someone. From a male's point of view, the following is a couple of ideas that might interest you.

1. Dinner & Movie

This is the number one choice for Valentine's Day. You will need to go to a more romantic restaurant than usual, where both parties can enjoy conversation over a delicious meal. This is where you will be able to get to know your significant other more and build a deeper relationship with him or her. The movie part of the date will provide the chance to get cozy and hold hands especially during the cold winter that you get in Canada.

2. Snowboarding

Use the season to your advantage; kick off a new romance with an adventure by going snowboarding. Whether you're a professional or a beginner, this type of activity will show off your adventurous side, playfulness, and athleticism or willingness to try something new.

3. Watch A Concert They Like

This is a great way to find out about their musical taste. Get tickets to go see a concert they would like to see, even if you are not a fan of that particular artist or band. This is a great bonding experience as listening to music tends to bring people closer together.

4. Farmer's Market

Cherries might not be in season, but that doesn't mean your local farmers' market doesn't have other options for you to cook with. Pick up some quality organic ingredients and test out your teamwork by cooking a warm and tasty meal. Your significant other will also enjoy the effort you put into cooking a full meal for them.

5. Attend A Sporting Event

If your significant other is a sports fan, find out when their favourite teams are playing in your city and get tickets. Even if you're not a sports fan, spending the time with your date is all that truly matters. Usually, at sport events, there's a “Kiss Cam,” which means that there may be a possibility that you will get to kiss your date!

Through the eyes of Amy...

Recently, I visited a newly-opened coffee shop in my neighbourhood and was surprised at the employees' dedication to the shop.

When I went into the cafe I was one of the few customers there and was pleasantly greeted with light music. On the walls were posters of the specials that the cafe had that day. When I ordered the special and two of their baked goods I was surprised at how the baked goods were fresh and warm as opposed to the usual factory-made products provided by most coffee shops. 

Apparently the baked goods were handmade by the employees and it was a surprise because of the low cost. Their Americano coffee was lovely, as the crema style was intact and it was overall a smooth cup. It was evident that the employees were dedicated to making the best products for their customers. 

In other cafes I've been to employees begin to chat and gossip when there are few customers around, creating an unpleasant atmosphere. However, the atmosphere of this particular coffee shop was quiet and free of disturbances.

Overall, the baked goods, warm coffee, and tranquil atmosphere made for a memorable experience. If I ever needed to relax with a good book or meet with someone for a polite conversation, then I will surely arrange a visit to the coffee shop again.

Through the eyes of Amy...

Recently I went to a music store located in Downtown Toronto. The store not only sold albums, but also music and pop culture related shirts and trinkets. The employees were both knowledgeable about their products and helpful to their customers.

This isn't the first store I've been to with great merchandise and employees, so what set it apart? What made this particular store unique was that instead of blatantly up-selling or suggestive selling their products by being overbearing with their music knowledge, the employees seemed to genuinely want to help their customers find exactly what they were looking for.

I'd entered the store with the goal of purchasing a band t-shirt for my cousin. Upon entering, I saw neat displays of shirt deigns on the shelves and began my search. Unfortunately, the band that was my cousin's favourite was not represented on any of the store's shirt designs. So I began to look for novelty items that my cousin might like instead. While I was browsing, an employee asked if I needed any help. I told them that I was initially looking for a particular band t-shirt, but that it didn't look like they had it. Instead of merely suggesting other t-shirts that the store had to offer, the employee nodded in understanding and empathized with me about having to shop for a fastidious teenager. The employee then went to their computer and informed me about another nearby store that should have that particular band t-shirt in stock. They told me how to get there and, after thanking them, I left the store.

Later I found out that the other store the employee had informed me about was a sister store.The employee had not only helped me locate the band t-shirt, but subtly promoted their own company. Both accommodating and clever, the company's employees were well-trained and admirable from a business standpoint.

 

 

 

Through the eyes of Shay...

Flying for the first time may become nerve wracking. There are many elements and aspects that will go wrong at any given moment. To ensure a less stressful flight, you have to become prepared for every thinkable situation.

As of now, you have already booked your flight in advance and have your ticket ready to go. Here are some things to expect from start to finish when flying for the first time:

Pre-Boarding: Be sure you call the airport ahead of time and double check that your flight is still running on time and to make sure your flight isn’t canceled last minute. Whether you are driving down or taking a taxi, arrive at the airport three to four hours upon departure to give yourself time to find your way to your section.

Carry-on Luggage: Every luggage will be different from one person to another due to where they are going and the duration of their trip. During every flight, be sure to bring travel sized beauty products such as makeup removers, baby wipes, hand lotion, and hand sanitizers. These items may be purchased at your local drugstore and can be inexpensive. It is important to freshen up and it will always come in handy.

Other important items to bring include inhalers if you have asthma, an iPod, and a good pair of headphones for entertainment. Be sure to bring a pack of your favourite gum. Why gum? When the plane is taking off and is thousands of miles in the clouds, the pressure tends to become strong on your eardrums and it will prevent your ears from ringing. If you don’t chew gum, candy will help as well.

Tip: Often, airplane food has a negative misconception, that the food is dull or tasteless. If that is your concern, pack a lightweight sandwich to be sure that you won't starve until your next meal.

Security Screening: To make things smoother, make sure not to wear tons of jewelry or wear metal belts; otherwise, the alarm will go off when you go through the metal detector. Be sure to wrap your delicate items such as mugs and plates around clothing to prevent breakage. Be advised that your luggage can weigh up to certain amount per luggage. Depending on the airport, charges may vary. Once you have shown your boarding pass and walked through the gates, you will have plenty of time to use the restroom, grab food, and rest until departure.

Comfortability: You never know who will be boarding the same plane. If you are going to be traveling far, you may encounter long hours of screaming children and find it difficult to sleep. One easy tip is to pop in those headphones to your iPod and tune it out. Another tip is to bring a neck pillow on your carry on so you may rest more comfortably. An airplane is just another way of traveling, just in the air. You are now well informed and ready to explore your destination!

 

Flying is always fun, but long waits for connecting flights can be boring, which is why airports continue to come up with different ways to make wait times less tiring and even productive. Last April, trying to escape the brutal winter, I proceeded on an overseas trip that took me through Toronto's Pearson, London’s Heathrow and Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airports.

International airports always have well-trained staff to deliver quality customer service to passengers. Their employees use every contact with you to impress you. Air Canada, British Airways and KLM – the national carriers of the three countries – offer the same quality of customer service and are obsessed with projecting a sublime image of their countries.

Although all three airports have charming employees, Pearson is my favourite. The airport is ahead of its time when it comes to providing affordable communication facilities to passengers to fight boredom and satisfy their communication needs. With a large iPad-equipped Internet cafe at Air Canada's Departure Hall, you can keep busy while waiting for your flight.

Schiphol is charming, too, but you only have free Wi-Fi access for 30 minutes. After that be prepared to pay, and it isn’t cheap. I love walking around the hall, exploring and shopping.

Heathrow, on the other hand, is among the world’s biggest and busiest airports. Following attentively the easy-to-understand signs makes navigating the huge place easy. What thrilled me about the airport are the inspiring adverts that keep exercising my mind each time I pass through there. Wherever you look, you’re sure to see a poster or billboard advert that speaks to you. Meditating on the advert messages keeps me engaged while waiting for my connecting flight.

So next time you travel and find yourself bored while waiting to catch your connecting flight, find a way to exercise your mind and body.

Through the eyes of Amy...

Whether you are a painter, jewelry crafter, graphic designer, or a DIY expert, all artists should get the recognition they deserve. Not only are the 5 websites listed below great places to showcase the best of your artwork, but help you fund future projects as well!
 
1. Etsy: Whether you are selling art pieces for the home, handmade jewelry, craft supplies, or even vintage goods, Etsy is the website to go to to find your own niche.
 
2. RedBubble: Share your artwork through the mediums of shirts, hoodies, stickers, phone cases, and more on RedBubble. The artist uploads their art on the website and decides on which clothing products they want RedBubble to print their artwork on.
 
3. StoreEnvy: Get started on creating your own brand with StoreEnvy. This website features emerging brands and allows users to create their own collection of their favourite works. 
 
4. BigCartel: With quick store setups, customizable layouts, and business-minded features, BigCartel is a simple to use website that gives artists the basic tools necessary in creating their very own brand.
 
5. DaWanda: With active staff members who post about trending items on the site, DaWanda allows artists to create and share new forms of artwork with the community.

Have you ever been to an unfamiliar cafeteria and left with the feeling of an empty wallet? Well, don't be too hard on yourself for allowing that to happen- you're not alone. There are ways to get around the costly lunches if you're dining out during work hours.

I used to be very skeptical of people who would try to upsell meals to me, but after I started working in an office park with very limited lunch options, it became really hard to have a reasonably priced meal during work hours. I scoured the area for a good cafeteria and eventually found one in the lower level of an office tower just steps away from my building. However, it was an expensive cafeteria- or so it seemed. I felt as though every lunch I spent there meant parting with good money for ordinary meals like a mere burger with pop.

Eventually, I asked a server why their food was somewhat “expensive”. I was confused as to why I had to part with almost $10 for a mere burger and canned pop. He asked me what I usually ordered and he replied, “That’s the problem. Certain items on our menu are more expensive when you order them individually. The next time you order this or that, mix it with this and that to make a combo”, he advised. I followed his advice and I’ve been saving almost 40% of what I usually spend from ordering the same items.

From then on, I learned that making a combo isn't always an upselling scam. Here are some tips to help you save money during lunch if you’re on a tight budget:

Each time you walk into a fast food joint or cafeteria that you’re sure to return to, cultivate a relationship with the people who work there. Ask them to explain to you the combos that give you the best value for your money.

A friend of mine used to joke that whenever you walk into a more upscale food establishment, you'll end up paying more for the atmosphere than the food. I know it's hard, but try not to judge a book by it's cover. Beautiful décor and a staged photos of menu items can be quite deceiving! Quality and affordability can be found in very surprising places.

So the next time you walk into a food establishment for the first time, don’t rush the experience. Take your time to interact with the employees. They may help you save money!

I read in the newspaper last month that 50 percent of all the bees in Ontario died last winter. As another winter approaches, I find myself worrying over the idea that more bees will disappear. This alarming news makes the efforts of bee conservationists all the more crucial. Just to refresh our memory, I would like to point out that one third of the food we eat is dependent on bees. Without bees pollinating, much of the food we get from plants will disappear, leaving us humans in an awfully hungry situation.

One company that has caught my attention is Burt’s Bees, a United State’s based beauty product manufacturer with substantial Canadian operations. The company is leading an unsung battle to save the bees. Burt’s Bees' goals include building hotels for bees, educating the public - especially its customers - about the importance of bees, and initiating a program to have people adopt bees.

The company's history is rooted in bees, understanding the importance of insects to the earth's ecosystem. The company is at the forefront of the battle to ensure that bees keep buzzing. It’s partnering with some organizations to promote the health of pollinators and fund honeybee sustainability projects in North Carolina through its Greater Good Foundation.

And here in Canada, the company is building bee hotels to help protect solitary pollinator bees from extinction by giving them a place to find food, water and nesting sites. Burt’s Bees is committing a significant portion of its profits from its special products to the Pollinator Partnership Canada to fund the bee hotels.

The disappearance of bees has caused major headaches for scientists and governments worldwide. It's not possible to save the bees alone; responsible corporate organizations need to come forward like Burt’s Bees and join the government in trying to salvage this situation. Let’s keep those bees buzzing.

There are many athletic shoe brands that have stepped onto the scene, but we can't deny the popularity of the oldies and goodies that seem to stick around. These brands have withstood the test of time, both physically and metaphorically, but have you ever wondered what brought them here today? Well, we're bringing you some fun facts about a few of the world's most famous athletic shoe brands!

1. Nike
Nike is an American company founded in 1964 as Blue Ribbon Sports. It changed its name in 1978 to Nike after the Greek goddess of victory. Its “Just Do It” slogan and swoosh logo are some of the most recognizable marketing items in the world today. It is considered to be the leading supplier of athletic shoes and apparel.

2. Adidas
Adolf Dassler established Adidas in 1948 in Germany. Its roots, however, may also be traced back to 1924 when the Gebruder Dassler Schuhfabrik was founded by Adolf and his brother, Rudolf. The two split up in 1949 with Rudolf establishing Puma. The basic design of Adidas is the three parallel bars which is also incorporated in the company’s logo.

3. Reebok
The company was founded in 1895 as J.W. Foster and Sons in England. It came from a desire to create a spiked running shoe for his sons. In 1958, his grandsons, Joe and Jeff, renamed the company Reebok, which is the Afrikaan spelling of rhebok, a type of antelope or gazelle native to the continent. Paul Fireman brought it to the United States in 1979 after seeing a pair in an international trade show. Reebok has been a subsidiary of Adidas since 2005.

4. Converse
Marquis Mills Converse established the company in 1908 as the Converse Rubber Shoe Company. In 1915, it began making tennis shoes. A company milestone occurred in 1917 when a basketball player named Charles H. Taylor walked into its office because of sore feet. He designed a high-top sneaker that became the classic we know today as “Chuck Taylor.”

5. New Balance
New Balance was established in 1906 as the New Balance Arch Support Company. Its shoes are typically more expensive than its rivals because it maintains manufacturing plants in the U.S. and the U.K. Its shoes are known by its model numbers as the company prefer not to give it names that would distract from the emphasis on the New Balance name.

6. Fila
Fila Ltd. was established in 1911 in Italy. It is known for its logo that features its name in snakelike letters. It used to be endorsed by Boris Becker and Bjorn Borg. It collapsed in 2003 forcing it to sell to a hedge fund company. Fila Korea, however, was a distinct company and bought all the rights to the company in 2007.

Through the eyes of Amy...

Toronto is a staple in the film industry, being used as the setting for numerous blockbuster movies. But not only is Toronto a film star, it's also a great city to go see movies in. Whether living in the East or the West, midtown or down near the water, Toronto cinema lovers with insatiable appetites for classic, foreign, and challenging cinema are never likely to go hungry. Here are five of the best places to watch movies:

1. TIFF Bell Light Box
Not only is this a world class movie theatre that plays host to the Toronto International Film Festival, but it also includes a cinema museum along with room for exhibitions, new art house releases, schlocky cult fare, children's programming, avant-garde screenings, a bookstore that sells the best film books in print, and space for a couple dozen film festivals.

2. The Bloor
The beloved single-screen Annex theatre entered a new phase of its life in 2011 when it was sold to the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. They renovated the theatre and reopened it under the name of Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in 2012. With a long history of showing cult, genre, and classic screenings, there is no doubt that the Bloor is set to become Toronto's chief venue for documentary work and will most definitely be the hub for North America's largest documentary film festival.

3. Toronto Underground
The Chinese cinema, formerly known as Golden Classics, opened its doors in the Spring of 2010 to cult and genre seekers. The Underground tends to stay true to its name by avoiding ostentatious signage and neglecting to update their screening schedule, relying more on word-of-mouth from their Facebook and twitter accounts to promote upcoming events.

4. The Revue Cinema
Located in the heart of Roncesvalles, Revue is a great venue for many of the better independent and foreign films. The self-proclaimed "only not-for-profit cinema" in Toronto, hosts some interesting series certainly worth watching.

5. The Royal Cinema
A staple on Toronto's independent cinema map since it opened as the Pylon in 1939, it remains a cherished Little Italy landmark, possessing one of the most beautiful art deco theatre interiors in Canada. This is one of Toronto's premiere venues for local and up-and-coming filmmakers to show their films, and also hosts a variety of popular film festivals.