Archives for September 2013

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My Son’s Top 10 Children’s Activities in Toronto

Toronto is an amazing city and I love buying and selling homes here. No troubles there.

One thing I do have troubles with is finding activities to do with my 2 sons.

So I have compiled my son’s top 10 list of his favourite places to go and things to do.

10. Going to a Raptor’s Game. It’s fall once again and they know how much dad loves the ever improving Raps. Let’s them yell at the top of their lungs.

9. Going to the Evergreen Brickworks farmers market. A definite plus is having the kids climb the mountain to get their energy out so they can take a nap on the drive home.

8. Going to Little India and learning a part of our mixed heritage. We love Indian food & music.

7. Going to Fantasy Fair. My sons love trains and they have a train ride at Fantasy Fair. We rode it 3 times last time we were there. We sometimes bring their older cousins aged 9-11. It’s a great place for toddlers up to pre-teens. We always try to go on a weekday, less lineups.

6. Going to the CNE. Yes the CNE just passed but I had to include this one. They are so amazed seeing so many people, flashing lights and junk food in one place. Maybe next year, we might bring our own lunches and have a picnic.

5. Going to the Science Centre.  We bought the season pass and the best thing is that kids under 3 are free. I forced my kids to go see the Star Trek Starfleet Academy Show and we (I) had lots of fun. Proving the Science Centre is fun for all ages. They had a lot of fun inside the planetarium, looking at the planets and stars.

4. Going to Riverdale Farm. This would be on the top of the list for “Free Things to do in Toronto”. Smack dab in the heart of the city is a farm. How cool is that? Open all year round from 9am to 5pm. My son’s favourite animals are horses and cows. Even though there weren’t any cows, he went crazy just seeing the horse. Be careful though, there’s no petting or feeding the animals.

3. Going to the Local Library. This would be second on the list for  “Free Things to do in Toronto”. Even though it’s free, I still pay about $100 in late fees a year. My kids have got to stop hiding those books and dvds. Everytime we go we borrow about 20 books and it’s great because they get bored of them so quickly. In the age of all this digital iPads and internet, there’s no replacement for a good ‘ole book.

2. Going to Canada’s Wonderland. The most expensive activity on the list and one of the most fun your kids will ever have. Roller Coasters, Water Park and all sorts of rides makes this place crazy fun for kids of all ages. I used to love roller coasters but now I get queasy just looking at the Leviathan.

1. Going to the Toronto Zoo. I remember going to the Metropolitan Toronto Zoo as a kid and it didn’t have half the animals they have now. We went this summer and we saw the Giant Pandas. The 45-minute wait was not bad because you get to learn about the pandas while you wait in the pavilion. This one is #1 because they love animals. There are toy animals all over the house. They kept the map and still read it from time to time, reliving their adventure.

There you have it, my son’s top ten kid’s attractions in Toronto. Hope you found this list useful and if you do, please share it on Facebook, Twitter or Email it to your friends.

Do your kids like the same places or do you have other favourites? Leave me a comment below.

Gardening In Fall Helps Us Prepare For Beautiful Gardens Next Spring

According to The Old Farmer’s Almanac, fall is the best time to put our creative energy into improving our gardens to enjoy the following spring.

Whether you are moving existing plants or beginning from scratch, start by mapping out the dimensions of the space you are designing making sure to note the amount of sunlight the area gets daily and the soil type: sandy, clay or loam.

Clay is nutrient rich, but drains slowly. Sandy soil drains quickly but has trouble retaining nutrients and moisture. Loamy soil is generally ideal because it retains moisture and nutrients and doesn’t stay soggy. Knowing the soil type will help you figure out the type of plants that will grow best in it.

For inspiration, fill a scrapbook with ideas seen in magazines and around the neighbourhood for a visual guide.

In designing which plants will go where, begin by placing the largest ones (trees and shrubs) first, noting their height and width at maturity. That information is typically available on the tags in the nursery. You don’t want to crowd such centrepieces with perennials that will have to be moved later.

Also, work from the back and move outward for the same reasons. This way, larger pieces become the backdrop and smaller ones placed in front won’t be obscured. Avoid putting large trees and shrubs up against the house where they will eventually block windows and light coming into your home. At the same time, large additions to your garden can hide unsightly parts of your home.

Your eventual piece de resistance is sure to be the envy of the neighbourhood.

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Alternative Homes — Are They Right For You?

You’ve always prided yourself on contributing as much as you can to preserving the Earth, but how can you know which alternative home is right for you?

There are nearly as many different kinds of homes as there are people. However, there are two main categories to consider: how they’re made and how they function.

Some homes are special because of the materials chosen for their construction. Timber frame homes, for example, are built with very large pieces of wood or full logs that are fit together using traditional methods. Unlike “stick-built” homes where the lumber is hidden behind drywall or plaster, timber frame homes expose the wood beams and present the structure as art. Generally, this method of building uses less wood than a similar structure built with 2 x 4s. They also tend to have a higher R-value and are often clean air homes due to the natural materials.

Another alternative material for house construction is straw bales. Readily available in Ontario and inexpensive, straw bales are made of waste from grain crops. Homes made with straw bales may also have timber framing or the bales may be structural. The bales themselves are pinned into place and then coated with plaster or cement on the interior and exterior. Many straw bale houses are very inexpensive to build as owners often do much of the work themselves. And, as you can image, the R-value for a 23” thick wall is quite high—about R-5. Straw bale homes are also often considered clean air homes as the plaster allows the house to “breathe” and vent excess moisture.

How homes function is the other consideration to alternative homes. Net-zero homes are becoming increasingly popular and may indeed become the new norm. A net-zero home produces at least as much renewable energy as it uses. This type of home has achieved that balance between generating its own power and having as low a consumption rate as possible. Net-zero homes can be traditionally built with added insulation and special conservation features, or they can be timber frame, straw bale or something else.

There are so many different options for people who want something unique and special for their home. Whether you want to try a different way of building or concentrate on options for energy generation or conservation, there is something out there that will work for you.

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LEED Certification

You may have seen homes, condos or commercial buildings referred to as LEED certified. You know that this means they are “green” but what does it really mean?

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is a third-party certification program that rates buildings on a point system. Ratings are based on five areas: building site, water, energy, choices of materials and indoor air quality. Depending on the score from these five areas, a building can be certified as silver, gold or platinum.

Usually, LEED certification only applies to new construction, but if an existing home is gutted—the drywall or exterior siding is removed to expose the insulation – then it would be possible to participate in the program and earn LEED certification.

Like any “green” home, a LEED-certified home is less expensive to maintain since it uses less energy and less water. But LEED certification offers much more than just efficiency. Because of the choices of materials, a LEED home will have better indoor air quality and be healthier and more comfortable. For commercial buildings, a healthier indoor environment means healthier employees and less sick days and lost work. For a home, it means a healthier family.

A LEED building uses more sustainable resources and is built to generate less waste. It will continue to use less and waste less over its lifespan, and does not cost much more to build than a conventional home. Some estimates place the increase in cost at only about 3 per cent. With an energy savings of up to 35 per cent and a payback of just three years just for the certified level, it is money well spent.

LEED certification provides a specific measurement of how “green” a building is and an ability to quantify its environmental impact. For example, in order to qualify for the points available for recycled content in the LEEDS program, the building must have a minimum of 10 per cent recycled content in its building materials. That could be recycled drywall or using concrete with a high-recycled content, such as fly ash.

LEED is a voluntary program and certification costs must be taken on by the owner/builder. With LEED programs like LEED Neighbourhood Development (ND), “green” homes may even become the norm. In addition to the usual LEED ratings, neighbourhoods must also offer traffic control and walkability scores. Several LEED-ND neighbourhoods on Toronto’s waterfront have reached certification.

When it comes to choosing a “green” home, choosing LEED-certified is a healthy choice.

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Thank-you for reading our article about LEED Certification, contact us if you need anything or leave us a comment below.

Give Neutral Shades A Try

Neutral colour may seem an oxymoron but think again.

These are shades that are happy to take a back seat to a room’s contents. Neutrals do more than quietly stand in the background to let the show-offs next to them take centre stage; they anchor a room, create a mood and complement a busy pattern.

Taking their inspiration from nature, neutral colours are earth tones from the deepest browns to the palest grays, and even blues, blacks muted reds, subdued greens and soft yellows. Consider blue skies, night skies and the seas below, a mountain range, a farmer’s field or setting sun. With all of this variety, neutrals are anything but boring. It’s only when neutrals are left to stand on their own, without any complementary patterns or textures that they become dull.

Neutrals are the get-along colours, layering well together and allowing texture to fill a room and create more interest.

To create a simple peaceful home, the best bet would be to use off-white or beiges as paint colour or among dominant furniture. These give a calming effect to the room.

Or, give your home a warm comforting rustic feel by using dark neutrals, such as shades of brown, rust and black.

Colourful fabrics, area rugs, artwork, vases, lampshades and pillows should draw some of their influence from the neutral colour in the room

But be aware that neutral colours do have undertones or second shades to them. These undertones can be pink, tan, gold, yellow, blue or even peach. It’s important to know because it can make your accessories sing or turn them tone deaf.

To make it work, think in contrasts, like warm versus cool or textured versus polished or light versus dark. For example, a burlap chair will pair well with a polished steel, glass or dark wood table. Throw on a deep red or blue tablecloth and it thanks to the neutrals, they unify, instead of compete with the trio.

After all, if Mother Nature can make a bevy of neutral colours co-operate as a noticeable backdrop to some of her more spectacular displays, surely we can do the same at home.

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Thank-you for reading our article about Neutral Colours, contact us if you need anything or leave us a comment below.