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The best tips for planting in pots

Cityline | posted Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Spring has sprung and garden season is finally here, however, it isn’t always easy to know which pots, soils, or plants are right for you. Frank Ferragine came by with his best tips to make the start of gardening season a little easier.

Picking the right pot:

Although using multiple smaller pots may look more aesthetically pleasing, they may not always be the best choice for your plants. Using one larger pot for multiple plants can allow for better moisture retention due to the fact that there is a greater amount of soil in the pot to hold on to the water. Because the larger pots hold water for a longer period of time, they can be great for the busy gardener who may miss a day or two of watering. It’s also important to make sure to check the bottom of your pots for holes or a space for drainage. In order for plants to thrive, pots need to have a place where water can drain from the soil to ensure that your plants aren’t sitting in water.

Choosing the right soil:

The pot is just as important as the soil that goes in it! By buying soils that are specific to pots, you can ensure that your plants are getting the proper nutrients as well as the proper amount of space for water and root growth. Potting soil is great because it acts like a sponge to help hold in water. However, it’s important to check your plants soon after you water them. Due to this sponge-like texture, the first watering might let too much water drain to the bottom of the pot. Make sure to check back five minutes later and add more water to the soil if necessary.

Deciding on the right plants:

Certain plants thrive better depending on temperature and location. When buying plants, it is important to look at whether the plant is best in sun or shade, when they can be planted, and how long they will last. In some cases, plants may only be in bloom for a few weeks at a time, while others can last through the hot summer heat. Paying attention to all of these details when purchasing plants can make your gardening experience a lot easier by saving you both time and money.

Check out the video below for more tips from Frank:

Our favourite Mother’s Day gift ideas

Suzanne Ellis | posted Thursday, May 7th, 2015

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Looking for a special gift to give to your one-and-only mom this Mother’s Day?

We’ve assembled our favourite ideas that won’t break the bank and that your mom is certain to love!

Frame a favourite family photo. In the digital age, it seems we rarely take the time to process photos anymore. But there’s something lovely about a framed photo, and if it’s a well-composed photo of the family — perhaps professionally done, or one taken on vacation — we guarantee your mom will love it. Or, take it a step further and make an album for your mom — photos from a recent trip or a week at the cottage. She’ll love flipping through it and remembering what a great time you had.

A hobby-inspired gift. Does your mom love to garden? Buy her a new pair of gardening gloves, a gardening tool or two, and some seed packets or seedlings. If your mom is active, head to the sporting goods store and pick up an accessory or two based on the sport of her choice. If she loves yoga, buy her a few drop-in classes. If your mom loves to cook, pair a new cookbook with a few fun kitchen accessories. A gift based on something you know she loves to do is thoughtful and will be appreciated.

Give your mom a spa day at home. I’m sure we’d all love to treat our moms to a luxurious spa retreat, but those can be expensive. It’s easy to give your mom a spa day at home – buy some scented bubble bath or bath salts, an individually-packed facial masque, some moisturizer, and a new nail colour for her fingers and/or toes. Bump up the experience with her favourite magazines, herbal tea, and a healthy spa-inspired lunch.

A book or magazine subscription. Reading can be a luxury for the busy mom. So give her a good book or magazine, and, perhaps more importantly, make sure she has some down time that day to turn a few pages. Looking for a good read for Mom? Head on over to our Cityline Book Club for a few suggestions!

A summery tote. Buying a new bag for Mom can be expensive, but with a tote it doesn’t have to be. Totes are endlessly practical, and because they’re often less expensive, you can find one in a bright, summery shade. We love bright oranges, crisp apple greens, and rosy pinks – but you know your mom best. Pick a shade and style you think would appeal to her.

Make your mom breakfast in bed. It’s true that homemade gifts are the best – especially when that homemade gift is breakfast in bed. We’ve got great ideas on how to do breakfast in bed for your mom, including recipe suggestions, right here!

What are you doing for your mom this Mother’s Day! Share your ideas in the comments below!

How to budget for a family vacation

Cityline | posted Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

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Family vacations are a terrific way to bond with your loved ones — tons of quality time together, and no housework to do! — but  they can be prohibitively expensive.

We asked Bruce Sellery for his advice on how to plan a family vacation that won’t break the bank.

Where do you start?

Bruce likens the family vacation to a home renovation in that everything costs more than you think. Write down all the costs — flights, hotels, rental cars, gas, meals, entertainment, and souvenirs. Once you reach your total, add a buffer of 10% to account for any surprise costs that may arise.

How can you find deals?

Think about what’s important to you and your family — are you keen to try a particular restaurant that you know will be pricey? Look to save in other areas such as the hotel. Hotels and flights cost a lot, so look for package deals online. Consider travelling at off-peak days (Tuesday, Wednesday) and times. Book your flights well in advance for your best chance to score a deal.

Spend on moments/experiences, rather than things.

What are you and your kids going to remember: a vivid fireworks display, or the stuffed animal bought from the gift shop? Moments/experiences tend to outweigh material items in our memories, so make the goal of your family vacation to create memorable experiences that your kids will remember for a lifetime.

How are you going to pay for it?

Don’t wait until the end of your vacation to think about how you’re going to pay for it. Loading up the credit card is not the way to go. As Bruce advises, this needs to be part of the planning process, and ideally the vacation is saved up for and even paid for before you go. Think about trade-offs and discuss them with your family — for example, tell your kids that in exchange for the amazing vacation you’re going to take, you’re not going to have any restaurant meals for a couple of months.

How do you stick to the budget?

It’s challenging, there’s no doubt, to stick to a budget when you’re away and having a great time. Try to succumb giving in to temptation when you’re faced with it, and set realistic expectations with your family in advance. For instance, tell your kids that they’ll each be allowed one souvenir to bring back from the trip. If you have a good sense of your budget going in to the trip, you won’t have to stress about expenses every waking moment. This is supposed to be a vacation for you, too!

The 7-day kitchen fix

Cityline | posted Thursday, Apr 30th, 2015

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Is your kitchen in need of an overhaul? Samantha Pynn shares easy ways to upgrade the space that don’t cost a ton of money.

1. Paint your cabinets or install new ones. Cabinets are the first thing people see in a kitchen, so you don’t want yours to be outdated and/or in rough shape.

2. Update your cabinet handles. They don’t have to be expensive, just current and/or classic.

3. Swap your faucet. Again, it doesn’t have to be an expensive model, just a new one that looks fresh and modern.

4. Consider a new backsplash. You can find great peel-and-stick backsplashes that won’t break the bank.

5. Replace your countertops. A fresh, white countertop will work wonders in making the space feel clean and new.

6. Cover your builder’s basic window with a Roman blind. This inexpensive window covering will add softness and diffuse light.

7. Add/switch your lighting. It could be as simple as updating the shade, but proper lighting makes a huge impact.

8. Accessorize! Adding pretty bowls, vases, and flowers to your space will make it more cheerful.

9. Add a runner. A runner along the floor in a colourful pattern will help add a boost of brightness.

10. Create an island. An island provides not only a prep space, but extra storage too.

For more advice from Samantha Pynn, watch the clip below.

 		

How to de-clutter your space

Cityline | posted Tuesday, Apr 21st, 2015

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From toys to magazines, from office supplies to clothes, clutter is bound to build up within your home sometimes! But no need to worry, Yanic Simard shares some key tips on how to get rid of clutter to restore order to your space:

  • To decide what stays in your space and what doesn’t, start with taking everything out of your space (minus your furniture) to start fresh.
  • Remove extra furniture out of the space, such as office chairs.
  • When you are putting your things back in the room, only bring back the essentials plus some décor. This will also help you create a focal space.
  • Try not to over-do it with artwork.
  • When you go shopping, make sure that what you are bringing into your home is necessary. Do not force items in your space just because you got them on sale. Resist the temptation!
  • When you have less items in your space, you will be able to concentrate on the small number of beautiful pieces that you do have.
  • Return the extra pieces into your room back to where they belong, organize them or give them away.

For more de-cluttering tips from Yanic, watch the video below:

Kitchen hacks: 5 creative ways to use your tools

Cityline | posted Tuesday, Apr 7th, 2015

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Mixing:

Take a whisk from your mixer at home (or buy one from the dollar store), take the handle off, fit it into your drill and go! Mixing has never been easier! Your eggs or cake batter will mix up in no time.

Cleaning up:

Why not make your chores fun? Buy a baby bottle cleaning brush, add it into the clutch of the drill, dip it into soapy water and clean! You can also use this in the bathroom to clean your grout, and it can even help clean your tires.

Sanding:

Working on detailed projects can be very difficult, so why not use an electric toothbrush? Cut the bristles off of the toothbrush, take male velcro (the rough side), cut it and attach it to the bristles with construction adhesive, then cut sandpaper and put it right on top. This is great for sanding the small, hard-to-reach places.

Peeling apples:

If your kids don’t like eating apples with the peel on, Leigh-Ann has a shortcut for you! Insert a spade bit into your drill, stick it into the centre of the apple and turn it on. As the apple is spinning, put a peeler against the apple and watch as the skin peels off in seconds!

Peeling potatoes:

Snap off the end of a toilet brush and stick it into your drill. Boiling your potatoes for four to five minutes before hand will help soften them up. Take the drill, stick it into a pot of water and potatoes and mix it up for 1 to 2 minutes. Watch as the potato skin miraculously peels off!

To see all of Leigh-Ann’s kitchen hacks in action, watch the video below:

 		

How to take care of your aging skin

Cityline | posted Tuesday, Mar 31st, 2015

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Why do we age and how can we fight it?
The environment: You need to protect your skin with sunscreen. It’ll reduce the chances of you getting dark spots, wrinkles and your skin will be in much better condition.
What is happening to your body internally: If you’re healthy it will seep through to your skin. Medications, genes, sickness, etc. can all impact your skin. Behavioural issues: Are you a smoker? Do you drink a lot? Do you do drugs? If yes, all these decisions will play a part in how your skin looks.

What should you do?
You want to exfoliate your skin. The skin is always producing new skin, so the dead skin needs to come off. Sometimes it doesn’t come off naturally, so you need to use something such as a chemical exfoliant or a manual exfoliant to get rid of that skin. If you have dry skin, you can exfoliate your skin less frequently (about every three days), whereas if you have oily skin, you can exfoliate your skin more frequently (about every two days).
Advance your skin care routine. Add a serum and use products that mimic ingredients that are in your skin such as coenzyme q10 and hyaluronic acid. The coenzyme q10 enegizes the skin to produce new skin and turn it over, and the hyaluronic acid locks the moisture in. Adding a serum into your skincare routine is really easy — it goes right after your toner and before your moisturizer in the morning, and before your night cream before bed.
Eat well. What goes into the body, shows on the skin. Drink water and get your servings of vegetables and fruits!

For more tips from Dino, watch the video below:

 		

Make tax time less painful with Bruce Sellery’s help

Cityline | posted Tuesday, Mar 24th, 2015

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Let’s begin:

Bruce advises everyone to begin with something sweet: a reward. Whether it’s a glass of wine, chocolates or looking at the new pair of shoes you want, start with that because no one loves doing their taxes but keeping a reward in mind (the tax return and what you can put it toward) may help you reach your end goal.

If you have a little bit of lead time, start with the paperwork. Find and divide your forms and receipts such as T4 slips, investment income slips, receipts for your kids’ activities and charitable contributions, your RRSP contribution receipt, etc.

Bruce suggests keeping on top of these receipts throughout the year as they come in. Keep them in a file or even a shoebox; this will definitely pay off when you are tackling your taxes. For example, if you qualify for the maximum deduction for physical activity, it could be worth $1000 — you don’t want to lose out on that!

Should you pay someone to do your taxes for you, or should you do it yourself?

If you are unsure whether or not you can handle your taxes on your own, there are three variables you need to consider, Bruce says:

  1. Complexity: Can you handle the work by yourself? Is it too complex?
  2. Competency: Do you have the basic skills to do it?
  3. Enthusiasm: Do you not hate it?

If any of the above is an issue, consider hiring an accountant or using an online tax filing service such as TurboTax. The online services are fairly inexpensive, they prompt you to ask questions, and remind you of the papers you need.

What happens if you don’t do your taxes?

If you’re owed money by the government, you won’t get it. If you have a salaried job and they have been withholding tax at source, you may be eligible for a refund but you won’t receive it. And don’t forget about the credits you may qualify for – if you’re unemployed, on maternity leave, or have kids, you may be in line for a refund. Don’t leave that money on the table!

If you owe money and don’t file, the consequences are significant. If you miss the deadline, April 30, by a day, the government immediately levies a 5% penalty on what you owe, plus an additional 1% every month you are late.

The one exception from the penalty is if you have had a significant life event, for example, if you are diagnosed with a serious illness. If so, you must call the CRA, prove it, and see if you can work something out to avoid the penalty.

What if you haven’t filed your taxes for years?

This is the time to say, “I need help,” and call a professional. They will walk you through exactly what’s required so that you can make a payment.

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