Chevy Volt 2012

Electric or Gas?

Do you think about getting an electric car as your next car purchase? I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. Especially after the gas prices were over a dollar a litre (which I realize was a while ago). But it really started to hurt when it was averaging or exceeding $1.25 per litre. As much as I love my car for it versatility for traveling, moving and chauffeuring the kid (and dogs) around, it has a 50 litre tank (Honda 2005 Element) and it’s not the most fuel efficient (no aerodynamic). It can cost me well over C$60 to fill the tank.

I don’t profess myself an expert about cars. I’m just a person who needs one and drives one. As far as I know, Hybrids, are the more common ‘electric’ cars on the market. Almos all car brands have at least one model that is a Hybrid. Chevy, has this [not so new] Volt, and electric car that has the option of gas. It’s like the duel fuel stove … no! It’s nothing like that…

Anyhow, GM was kind enough to let me test drive their Volt for a week. I happen to get it the week that I was headed up to Ottawa for Social Capital Conference May 31-June 1st with a detour to Montreal.

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As you can imagine, with any new car, it drives quiet smoothly. I’d like to tell you that you can go from 0 to 60 km/hr in X-amount of seconds, but what this car teaches you is that if you ease your startup and braking, you don’t use much power/gas, therefore you’re being energy efficient. With an elaborate dashboard panel advising you of what is happening in the car plus your surroundings, you can keep informed while you drive.

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A fully charged car, it can travel about 60km, which is good for your daily commute to work. It’s most efficient running exclusively on electric as long as you’re driving under 80 km/hr. Once you’re on the highway, you’d need to put the battery on ‘hold’ and it will run on the gas engine, which is a 30 litre tank.

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With this charger, it plugs right into a regular household 110 volt plug. It can take up to 8 hrs to charge it fully from empty. There’s also options to set the car to time of day (so that you can charge during low peak time). If you install a 220 volt plug at your home, it will take less time to complete the charge.

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All in all, I really liked the car and I’d strongly consider it as top of my list of next car to buy.

Pros:

• Total [Premium] gas purchase: $60 = 1 week’s worth of driving around Toronto, to & around Montreal, to & around Ottawa, and back to Toronto again.

• Taught me that I have a heavy foot when driving, and I learnt quickly how to be more gas/energy efficient.

• Roomy trunk considering it’s a sports car

Cons:
• Little leg room in the back seat. Only enough for my kid to sit comfortably in the back

• Shape of the back window was difficult to look out of through the rear view mirror

Mac & Cheese w/Cauliflower

Let everyone eat … cauliflower

IMG_8684As much as I’d like to be the perfect mum, I resolved quite quickly that there is no such thing as perfect, especially when you’re trying to do the best that you can as a single parent. Doing the best that you can means choosing your battles and do what you need to do to get your tasks accomplished. This included what we ate.

I love to cook, especially for others, but it’s not always possible when I’m also running the family business [all on my own]. So we resort to, you guessed, fast food and packaged foods. I’ve decided that this is the one thing that I need to do for both myself and my daughter – to make sure we both eat better. I’ve been collecting and reading lots of cookbooks about Slow Cooking, Vegetarian, Vegan, Raw and Juicing.

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I think that change needs to be gradual to make it work. Here’s my journey in finding new [old] dishes for us to like that is a healthier choice.

Today’s dinner: Mac and Cheese with Cauliflower (hidden) courtesy of saltscapes.com

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (500 mL) whole grain macaroni
  • 1  head cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) butter
  • 4 tbsp (60 mL) flour
  • 2 cups (500 mL) milk
  • 2 cups (500 mL) grated cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup (125 mL)
  • whole wheat bread crumbs

Directions:

  1. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Set aside.
  2. Steam cauliflower until soft, 15-20 minutes. Set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a sauté pan, then add flour, stirring to incorporate. Allow flour to cook until it just begins to bubble and release some butter back into the pan.
  4. Add milk and stir until thickened, about 3-4 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat; add cauliflower and purée using a blender or hand mixer.
  6. Return to heat and add cheddar cheese, stirring until melted.
  7. Add cooked and drained macaroni to sauce. Place in a 9×9-inch (23×23-cm) baking dish. Top with bread crumbs and bake at 350ºF (180ºC) for 30 minutes.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Note: I amended the recipe slightly by using Penne Rigate instead of Macaroni, Planko instead of Breadcrumbs and I added Fried Onions

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Legoland Toronto

This is our first trip to Legoland Toronto, which opened just last week on March 1st. Located in Vaughn Mills, just north of Toronto right by Canada’s Wonderland, making this part of town a great place to visit while in Toronto. Shopping, great food and family fun all in a 5km radius.

As you enter Legoland, families are shown, in a fun and interactive way, how Legos are made.

We then transition to the Kingdom Quest, where we ride (up to 5 ppl) to help save the princess by shooting spiders, bats, ogres and skeleton soldiers. (I scored 23,458 BTW)

Following that, we enter Miniland with Toronto well represented with SkyDom, TD Canada Trust Tower and even the Trump Building.

And finally the Discovery Centre where you find the majority of the attractions all in one big room.

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Classes at the AGO

One of great things about the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) are their classes that they offer. From young to old, there is something for everyone.

For adults, there are Photography, Printmaking, Drawing, Painting, Sculpture and even Writing.

For Youth and Children, there are Painting and Drawing classes of course, but also an Integrated Studio Projects where they work independently and iDEA Lab Studio where they can explore themes relevant to their lives.

The other nice thing at the Weston Family Learning Centre is the space for parents to sit during the classes. Lounge chairs over looking the work area where the kids classes are held, to rows of tables in an open space where you can catch up on work or reading. And on Sundays, they also have Yoga for only $5.

Blissdom Canada ’12

Another great year with the ladies at Blissdom Canada. This year, my company Publisher Production Solutions was a proud sponsor of the conference, but I feel that it meant more to me personally. I love being able to see and catch up with the ladies that have been here in the previous years. Especially getting to  those who are from across Canada, not just those from Toronto, but also meeting new people each year.

I was re-inspired to write more, here in my blog, but now possibly guest blogging on other sites. Equally, I have been inspired to pick up my camera again, and not my digital one, but my film camera. I really look forward to finding film (and processing them) that are still available for the many film cameras that I still own. I hope to get back into creating portraits that I did back when I was in school at OCAD.

If you were at Blissdom Canada 2012 this year, I hope that you had a great time. If not, I hope to see you here next year at Blissdom Canada 2013!

Making it work – Before & After Laundry Room

It’s been a long time coming, but I am finally getting my dressing room that I’ve dreamed of since I picked up my first home decor magazine.

I had moved in a year ago from a modern condominium to a 1960’s bungalow. The condo had two walk-in closets, and I mine had 18ft of hanging space and now, I am down to a 3.5ft wide closet. No matter how much I purged, I couldn’t get my clothes to fit. I resorted to using the front hall closet, the home office closet, my bedroom closet and I added two rolling racks, and it still wasn’t enough for my clothes.

I’ve been designing this [in my head] for the last year. I knew the best place for it was in the laundry room because it was the only unfinished space in the house. The added bonus is that we’ll be washing our clothes in the same room. Which means no lugging heavy laundry baskets up and down the stairs.

Here’s where I take something that could have cost me $10,000 with custom designed [everything] to having it all done for less that 1/10th the price:

  1. Hardware for closet system $200
  2. Dresser and room divider (to hide furnace) $300
  3. Foam floor pieces $70
  4. Paint/Drywall + labour $350
  5. Ideally, I’d like a new [sexy] washer/dryer + light fixture, but that will need to come down the road…

[I’ll update the post with the full before and after pictures next week]

One step forward, two steps back

Why is it that it always feel like I am playing catch-up [on life]?

As I slowly check off the items that are on my to-do list, more and more gets added at the other end. Things that I need to do, but more importantly, things that I want to do. How do I simplify my life? Do I just have a shorter wish list? Do I get rid of my possessions so I have less to worry about?

I just feel that I am at a stand still. That I am completely overwhelmed — I “cannot see the forest through the trees”. I know that I need help from my business to my personal, but I cannot afford to pay for either. So I am stuck doing it all on my own. So instead of tackling it little by little, day by day, I sit there and I do nothing. Well, not nothing, but the bare minimum and procrastinate until I’m in trouble and I have no choice.

Life’s too short to be beat by “overwhelmed” or “procrastination” — so, it’s decided. No more excuses. I’m going to leap past the two steps and keep moving forward.

Pests

I’m learning a lot owning a house. … I’m learning that I don’t know a lot about owning a house. Well, maybe it’s more like ‘maintaining’ a house. Today new challenge is Pests.

I work up this morning with a plan.

Get some work done, drop off the kiddo to grandma’s, tea time at a SMWTO (Social Media Week Toronto) gathering and then finally ending my day with dinner with a client. That plan quickly derailed by little black dropping in my kitchen (and they were not from my dogs). Black specs on my stovetop that I hoped was burn pieces of spices that I forgot to clean up last night. But who’s kidding who? It came from a mouse/mice! ARGH! The thing that I haven’t had to deal with since the last time I lived in a house. That was over 12 years ago. Suddenly I missed living in a condo.

So after speaking to my good friend, who talked me off the ledge [of selling my house], I realized that it’s not the end of the world. And that it really isn’t the end of my day either. So… I take the time to clean the kitchen (which I probably should have kept clean in the first place – as my mother would say), and lay some traps out and hope that I have someone to dispose of anything it catches.

*Sigh*

I think that it was easier for me to jump into parenthood as a single parent than owning this house. I think that someone should write a book “What to Expect When You’re a Home Owner” (okay… I know that there probably is a book out there like that already, but probably isn’t a best seller like What to Expect When Your Expecting). Looks like I found a new topic to write about. Keep an eye out on more postings from me…learning all about Ownership of a House

Feeling Settled

I’ve moved far too many times in my lifetime (thanks to my father), and no, I wasn’t and Army Brat or we weren’t fugitives. He just moved us on average every two year all around the GTA (mostly Scarborough). But, back then, it was easy, he and my mother would take care of everything while my brother and I stayed with family or friends for a weekend. When it was all done, we’d go back to a new bedroom, that was all unpacked and we were all set to goto school.

While in University and College, I moved around just about the same frequency as my father had us moving. But I did it the college style: futon, dresser, suitcase of clothes and CD collection. Took less than a couple of hours to pack move and unpack with the help of a couple of friends.

Since having my kid, I’ve moved 3 times. But this is the 2nd place I’ve owned on my own. With all my furniture, stuff, and kid & dogs in tow and the added stress of buying a selling my place(s), it’s taken me until now to feel settled. Almost back to my old self. This last move started just after Victoria Day Weekend 2011. I think that is a long time to be in limbo.

Now my house feel really lived in (especially after the water leak) and I have a sense of routine with everyone in the house. I can finally breathe again.

I’m looking forward to writing more in my blog. And maybe, just maybe, it will be interesting…

So much to do, so little time

Are you like me? Do you have the longest to-do list in the world and even less time to accomplish anything? I’ve been trying to find the best [iPhone/iPad] app to help me check off my list.

Here are some that I like (based on design, function, and usability)

TeuxDeux $2.99 (by SwissMiss) It’s simple and it’s browser based. So if you’re used to working in the ‘cloud’ then you’ll like this app. The app connects to your free TeuxDeux Web account

Do it (Tomorrow) Free  (by Adylitica,Inc) Again another simple design. The icon and app looks like a Moleskine notebook with only two pages – ‘Today” and “Tomorrow”. Basically you enter your list on either today or tomorrow. And what ever you don’t accomplish it will automatically carry over.

Remember the Milk Free (by Remember the Milk) Also a web based site that has both a free and paid accounts. There you can manage all your tasks. It’s a type of “Set it, and forget it” principle by David Allen book Getting Things Done There you put all your task that you repeat on a regular basis, and it will send you timely reminders. You can also create different folders from individual family tasks/reminders to personal projects or work tasks.

Reminders Free included in iOS (by Apple) With iPhone 4S and Siri, this app is where Siri puts all your reminders that you, with or without a specific time. You can create different lists and you can check it off as you complete them. Those lists, other than the one titled “On My iPhone” will sync to your iCloud account, which should update all your devices and computers.

TouchBase $2.99 (by Tomo) This app works with you iCal appointments (or you can add them into the app directly) and your address book. Here you can keep in touch with the people that will be at your meetings/appointments. With quick keys text people that you’ve arrived, or that your running late by 5, 10 or 20+

Contact Journal – Personal CRM $4.99 (by zaal LLC) This app allows you to track and take notes after speaking to clients between meetings. You can also sync the data between your iPhone and iPad through Dropbox. After you’ve entered all your notes, you can read them all easily through the Logs tab that gives you a quick view in order of entry date/time. This can be an indispensable app if you’re in sales.

Lemon Free (by Lemon Inc) A web based app, this allows you to track your expenses or all your purchases. You can “scan” your receipts with your iPhone camera, then Lemon will help store your receipts and generate summary reports. The web account is also free at Lemon.com, but for an upgrade at a cost of a couple of lattes a month, it will give you details on every line item and show you how you’re spending your money.