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Trend Report: Luxury redefined

Trend Report: Luxury redefined

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Trend Report: Luxury redefined

by Glen Peloso
Grafus Design Build

New York’s Architectural Digest Design Show in March was a wonderful opportunity to see current interior design trends.

What’s to come is a combination of customization and incredible details that create a totally unique space. One of the predominant trends is advanced technology, which allows some of the elements that used to be part of decor to disappear.

Gold fixtures add instant elegance to a bathroom. Faucet by THG Paris.
Gold fixtures add instant elegance to a bathroom. Faucet by THG Paris.


The custom kitchen with hidden details is one of the trends to watch for. With differing family sizes and cooking abilities, we have individuated kitchen requirements. To that end, I was pleased to see that JennAir has developed a line of columnar refrigeration. If you want a fridge only as an icemaker, no problem. If you have a large family, you might opt for a two-fridge and one-freezer column. The choice is entirely up to you.

You are able to utilize both fridge and freezer appliances to suit your needs, it’s Wi-Fi feature allows you to makes changes through your smart phone — change the temperature, make more ice, etc. — and should you leave a door open, it will alert you by sending you a text.

Customize the stovetop appliances for how you live. Induction cooktop by JennAir.
Customize the stovetop appliances for how you live. Induction cooktop by JennAir.

When it comes to cooking, the ovens are also Wi-Fi connected. You indicate the meat, the weight and the pan. The probe signals your smart phone when the meat is cooked to your specification.

With stovetop appliances, you custom create, à la carte; an induction cooktop next to a grill followed by a wok cooker or whatever combination that suits your needs. You design the whole kitchen for the way you live and cook. The kitchen IS the party!

Make art the focal point when you're not watching TV. Projection TV by Sony.
Make art the focal point when you’re not watching TV. Projection TV by Sony.


For a long time, home design was forced to display functional electronics. We like to look at them but never like the look of them. TVs, speakers, receivers and amps all required precious floor and wall space. Short-throw projects have become the coffee table, a projector and a speaker all in one. When you’re not watching TV there is nothing to see, but when you are, the picture is perfect and the sound emanates from the table. The technology is new and the price is high (currently about $9,000 U.S.), however, the smaller tabletop version is closer to the cost of an iPad.

These projectors return the walls to the home, and the smaller version is completely portable. If the price is a little steep right now, you can consider the reflector TV that is both a mirror and a television. There is little or no room reflection when the TV is on, which is an improvement from the past.

The latest reflector TVs offer little to no reflection. Reflector TV by Sony.
The latest reflector TVs offer little to no reflection. Reflector TV by Sony.

Home automation has helped us remove light switches and the need for house keys and speakers are hidden in lighting, to name just some of the new technology, but more and more these functional elements have a hidden form.

When it comes to the elements that we do see, both the devil and the future are in the details. Mosaics that mimic the Roaring Twenties, three-dimensional tiles that seem to grow flowers through them, hardwood flooring with in-laid metals along with wall coverings with custom images or large-scale wall “tattoos.” You create a space that is as unique as you are.

All of these elements are more and more customizable so your home is truly a reflection of all the things you love. It seems as though the future is as customizable as you would like it to be, and as hidden as the flashlight and calculator, which are also on your phone.

Glen Peloso is an interior designer and principal of design firm Grafus Design Build.


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A living room to last a lifetime

A living room to last a lifetime

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A living room to last a lifetime

by Jo Alcorn
Whitewash & Co.

There is nothing worse than a living room that is poorly laid out and/or lacking function. I recently redesigned a family room so it is comfy, cozy and a room the family wants to gather in.

And I did something that some might think is radical — I converted this family’s gas fireplace to an electric fireplace. Electric fireplaces have come so far in recent years and it’s something I recommend in almost all my designs now. For this space, I selected a Dimplex electric fireplace, which appears so real people have to look twice. The flame clarity and colour is like nothing I have ever seen before. Another feature I love is that you can use it all four seasons, as there is a no-heat option.

The fireplace was the jumping-off point for the room. I started with a unit that would fit the room and then created the most stunning built-in unit you can imagine to surround it. To create this unit we used Metrie’s French Curves Collection. This collection leans towards formal and ornate, but you can take them in so many contemporary directions.

This room needed seating that would work for this family of four; a good place to snuggle up to watch a movie, or separate nooks for reading and relaxing. I chose this giant oversized sectional from Structube. A great thing about their furniture is that it is super family friendly and the prices are incredibly affordable.

I was also able to add a side chair and a modern rocking chair, which I have been wanting to add into one of my designs forever; I am a bit obsessed with this modern rocker. Since this company is so budget-conscious, I was also able to add the gorgeous glass coffee table and raw wood side tables – all within my clients’ budget. Being a family room, I knew it was important to include some family photos. While I might not traditionally lean towards family photos for the walls, I love incorporating non-traditional and meaningful photos to a family’s space, especially when they are artistically taken. These photos were some of the most cherished memories from this family and all we did was upload them to Posterjack and with a few clicks of the mouse we chose the frame style and size as well as changing the photos to black and white.

To make this room multi-functional we also wanted to ensure you could swivel the TV so it could be viewed from all angles of the room. We chose this amazing TV mount arm from Wayfair Canada which allows you to adjust the TV so you can watch it from any seat in the room.

For this room, pot lights were not in the budget but lighting was a necessity. The room still desperately needed light so we chose lighting from Wayfair’s home improvement category. We paired together two affordable ceiling lights to give the impression of one large track lighting system.

Finally, what room is complete without proper sound? I am obsessed with my Sonos system so I naturally want all my clients to get it. The Sonos Playbar connects to my TV – which makes everything I watch sound better – and the stereo pair of Sonos Ones (with Amazon Alexa built-in) take movie nights to the next level with surround sound. And when the TV is off, I can use all three speakers to enjoy my favourite music, radio stations, podcasts and more.

With all the key components in place, I went on a shopping spree at HomeSense to give this room the finishing touches it needed to bring it to life. I grabbed a multitude of throw cushions, side table accessories, pots and bowls, which gave it the elevated look I was aiming for.

The result is a living room all member of the family can enjoy in the way they want to – watching TV, reading, relaxing or having conversations. This room works for the entire family, which is exactly what they wanted. And I was delighted to create for them.

Jo Alcorn is a design specialist and founder of Whitewash & Co..


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Meg Ryan's gorgeous Soho loft

Meg Ryan’s gorgeous Soho loft

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Meg Ryan’s gorgeous Soho loft

America’s sweetheart converted Hank Azaria’s bachelor pad into a sophisticated urban apartment.

From a jock hangout to one of the most sophisticated and dramatic apartments in New York’s Soho neighborhood, interior designer and actress Meg Ryan has done it again.

Having purchased the bachelor pad from The Simpsons’ Hank Azaria in 2014, Meg had the ability to visually block out the massive gym, animal skins thrown over dining room chairs, too much ’70s shag carpeting and imagine how rooms could be repurposed and restructured. She identified the bones and how they could be adjusted to get the best flow for today’s lifestyle.

Featured multiple times in both Architectural Digest and Elle Decor for the nine homes she has decorated, Ryan’s sense of style has been recognized by the best in the business. She told Architectural Digest that her enthusiasm for interior decorating comes from the need to express herself rather than a character in a film that expresses someone else’s vision.

Encompassing a full floor of a converted Soho warehouse, the 4,100-square-foot loft co-op has three bedrooms, three baths and is accessed by a key-lock elevator. Some of the pre-war details include a long entry gallery bathed in light from the large windows spanning the space, seven architectural columns, 12-foot ceilings and floor-to-ceiling French doors.

Ryan added a Victorian decorative fireplace in the dining room and the original narrow-board wood floors have been refinished with an ebony stain. Prior to the onset of actual decorating, Ryan repurposed and reconfigured much of the loft such as enlarging the kitchen, reconfiguring the new master suite — which was previously the huge gym — switched out the dining room that had formerly been the master bedroom, resized bathrooms and added a plethora of closets, storage and built-ins.

After being completely gutted and built out, Ryan went with a sophisticated city theme of dark colour, contrasting textures and a glass wall with French doors between the living room and dining room. Brick walls were left exposed in the media room. The new open and airy kitchen is stocked with high-end appliances and leans more toward French design.

Meg Ryan, America’s sweetheart in When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail and director of Fan Girl and Ithaca, has sold her elegant Soho loft for $10 million (U.S).



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Greatwise moving into the GTA

Greatwise moving into the GTA

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Greatwise moving into the GTA

Ottawa builder moving to GTA with projects in North York and St. James Town.

With an enviable track record for delivering desirable homes in Ottawa neighbourhoods such as Qualicum and Alta Vista, Greatwise Developments is poised to launch almost 3,000 new residences in Toronto and Ottawa over the next two years. From townhomes to condominium suites and rental buildings, the choices will be varied, yet they will all have one thing in common – superb design and construction quality provided by one of Ontario’s most progressive developers.

Coming soon to the GTA, Greatwise will launch the first of many exciting new communities, an eight-storey condominium of 100 suites offering beautiful views in a mature residential neighbourhood near Glencairn and Bathurst Streets. Convenient ground level retail is planned.

In North York, Greatwise is master-planning a 10-acre property with approximately 1,500 condos and rental units, a potential retirement residence and major retail space. The towers will afford unparalleled views of the Valleyland and Earl Bales Park.

Greatwise has presented initial plans to redevelop a portion of St. James Town’s Wellesley-Parliament Square, adding new condominium towers, midrise buildings and townhomes totalling almost 900 units, a proposed grocery store and fitness facility combined, plus retail. The proposal includes ways to enhance the existing neighbourhood with new, connected green space and park areas.

One outstanding community, now selling Phase 2 following the successful sell out of the first phase, is modern Fresh Towns on Baseline Road and Morrison in Nepean, Ottawa, which has hit a market sweet spot with homebuyers. This well-priced, superbly located neighbourhood offers 90 spacious three-story, two- and three-bedroom townhomes and a new Signature Collection is to be released this spring.

In Ottawa later this year, the company plans to launch Fresh Condos, applying rigorous research and focus group insight to tailor the product to their customer base. This new lowrise condo will offer 75 suites.

Greatwise Developments was established in 1984 to bring a fresh perspective to the new homebuilding industry, which the company has successfully achieved. After creating thousands of homes in Ontario communities, Greatwise continually sets the bar for excellence. Social responsibility and corporate citizenship are company hallmarks, which includes a commitment to ethical practices, sustainable, low-impact building, and exemplary customer service while upholding construction standards that exceed Ontario Building Code.



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Four reasons to buy a new home

Four reasons to buy a new home

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Four reasons to buy a new home

When you’re in the market for a new home there are many tough decision to be made.

When you’re in the market for a new home it can be a tough decision. Do you head to the sales office of a local builder or check out resale homes? Here are some reasons to buy a brand new home:

The latest technology

Homebuilding has seen significant changes in construction techniques and new technology over the last 10 years. New homes today come with efficiency features such as tankless water heaters, high-efficiency condensing furnaces, low-flow showerheads, Energy Star appliances, high-performance windows and smart thermostats. This means today’s homes and condos are easier on your utility costs and the environment while providing you a home that is as tech-savvy as you are.

Registered builders versus DIY

New homebuilders in Ontario need a licence to build. In fact, it’s the law that they be registered with Tarion, the regulatory authority. This means that builders must meet financial and technical tests before they can build homes, providing you with some peace of mind about your investment.

An older home, on the other hand, may have changed ownership several times, which could mean it’s seen many years of DIY fixes or renovations that may not meet the current Ontario Building Code. Older homes may also have more hidden issues like faulty wiring, illegal alterations and use of older materials.

Best-in-class warranty

Almost every new home or condo in Ontario is covered by a new home warranty with up to $300,000 in coverage. From the moment of possession, almost everything the builder provides, inside and out, is covered in the first year. The major systems inside your home, including heating and plumbing, are covered for up to two years and major structural defects are covered for up to seven years.

Customized finishes

A newly built house or condo gives you the opportunity to customize it to your tastes before it’s even built. Depending on the builder, you can often choose wall colours, design and colour of cabinets and countertops, types of fixtures in your kitchen or bathroom, floor finishes and the style of interior trim throughout your home. Find more tips at tarion.com.


Buying a new home is exciting, but also a lot of work. It involves a whole series of decisions beginning with setting your budget all the way to picking out bathroom tiles. Wouldn’t it be great to have a trusted advisor to help?

MyHome Planner is a free app that offers the reliable advice, information and organization skills you need at each step of the home buying process. It’s like a best friend, new home expert and personal assistant all rolled into one.

One of the first big decisions to tackle is where you want to live. The app can help you research builders and where they are proposing to develop new homes or condos. It also gives you access to Tarion’s Ontario Builder Directory so you can see how long a builder has been in business, how many homes it has built and whether there have been any warranty claims.

Once you know where you want to be, the fun part comes when it’s time to choose the house model and customize it with fixtures, countertops and other finishes to create the home of your dreams. The app can help with scheduling, reminders and valuable information that will help to ensure nothing is forgotten.

When it comes time for the Pre-Delivery Inspection — a walk-through of your completed home with the builder prior to taking possession — you need to identify issues such as damaged or incomplete items.

But do you know what to look for or what questions to ask? The app can coach you with tips, videos and resources that will help you through the process. It can also help you learn about your new home warranty. Find more tips at tarion.com.


Buying your first home can be exciting, but it is important to realize the slew of new responsibilities that come with owning property. Tasks that a landlord would take care of are now on your plate. Here are some to keep in mind:

Neighbourhood by-laws

Many communities maintain regulations, such as maximum heights for fences, hedges and trees; building permits for decks; and rules for the construction of fire pits. To avoid an accidental misstep, check out the neighbourhood by-laws when you are moving.

Maintain smoke alarms According to the Canadian regulations, smoke alarms must be installed outside of each sleeping area and on each level. Maintenance of these devices include testing them every month, cleaning and changing their batteries as directed by the manufacturer and replacing any that are over 10 years old.

Check seldomley used bathrooms

Grime and dirt build-up can cause your faucets and toilets to malfunction or get damaged. Avoid this by running the taps and flushing the toilets of guest bathrooms occasionally.

Curb appeal

Don’t forget to maintain your outdoor property as well. Take pride in your new home with a well-manicured yard. This may not be everyone’s favourite chore, but Stihl’s Lithium-Ion Homescaper Series can help in easing the load with lightweight and powerful tools making the job much easier.

Emergency fund

Now that you own your home, you are solely responsible for any and all repairs. These can be costly, and often come by surprise. Avoid an unplanned financial burden by keeping an emergency fund for household maintenance and repairs. Find more information about helpful tools online at stihl.ca.

From News Canada


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Here's to the extraordinary

Here’s to the extraordinary

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Here’s to the extraordinary

by Gale Beeby

Criag McOuat is taking on Trek Everest to raise money for Markham Stouffville Hospital.

I have a friend is doing one of THE most extraordinary things in the world — he’s going to Trek Everest to raise money for a new operating room at Markham Stouffville Hospital.

Craig McOuat
Craig McOuat

Well, okay, Craig McOuat isn’t really a friend, but he is a business associate, and I like to call extraordinary people my friends!

McOuat is the president and general manager of McOuat Partnership, a full-service sales and marketing company located in Markham.

This month, McOuat will leave for Kathmandu, Nepal, with 20 people from Markham Stouffville Hospital — including doctors, nurses and other staff— who will first offer healthcare to the people of Nepal who were injured during the 2015 earthquake.

And then Craig and Company will hike to Everest Base Camp (elevation 17,600 feet) and then climb to the top of Mount Lobuche (20,161 feet), which is located next to Everest, with an elevation 29,030 feet.

The money raised will benefit Markham Stouffville Hospital, which requires a hybrid operating room equipped for fluoroscopy, which is a “surgical tool (that) uses x-rays to obtain real-time moving images and is essential for angiograms, angioplasties, urological and cardiac interventions and many other procedures,” according to its website. The new equipment and renovation of the operating room will increase the capacity for surgical procedures and decrease wait times.

“I am a firm believer in doing good in the world, and this is a unique opportunity to do some good at home in Markham, and also in Nepal, one of the poorest countries in the world,” says McOuat, who has a seat on Markham Stouffville Hospital’s Foundation Board. “This is a great opportunity to test myself with one of the biggest challenges I will ever face.”

The event also celebrates the 65th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary. His son, Peter Hillary, will lead the expedition along with famous Canadian explorer Ben Webster, who will be filming a documentary.

“How many people actually get to experience this with a Hillary? Just a few of us,” McOuat says. “How special is that?”

You can donate here.


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The Millennial View - One Pricey Pint

The Millennial View – One Pricey Pint

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The Millennial View – One Pricey Pint

by Nika Tomljenovic

LONDON — When somebody mentions they’ve lived abroad, I imagine a cute apartment with a view of the ocean, a farmers’ market across the street and rent a quarter of Toronto’s. When my friend lived in Thailand, it literally sounded like a savings plan with elephant rides and sunshine.

So when I received the news I’d be moving to London (yes, England) for my MA in playwriting and screenwriting, I was hit with the realization that London is an expensive city. And a wet one. Not like New York City expensive, but it definitely costs a substantial amount more to live here than Toronto. I see it as a halfway point between the two.

The average cost of a studio flat in London is about £1,100/month (depending on the area). That’s about $2,000 in Canadian dollars. So currently I live in student housing, or halls as they call them here, and it costs me the equivalent of a trendy one-bedroom-plus-den condo on King Street West. The neighborhood, Shoreditch, is in East London and is known as a hive for young artists and hipsters with its share of cool restaurants, bars and clubs. It’s like Queen Street West, but bigger.

The perks of my student housing includes having my own bathroom, mini kitchen and access to a gym for less than the cost of a flat. The not so ideal part is that I’m 23 and living the student life. I own a pair of earplugs I frequently use when I’m trying to sleep and my neighbors decide to throw a spontaneous Tuesday night party. Other than that, my accommodation has done its job, considering I moved here not knowing one thing about the city, or any of its neighborhoods.

Not only is rent more expensive, but food and clothing are too. The meals cooked at home in Toronto would cost nearly double to recreate here (and it’s not like I have the equipment; I own one pot and one pan). Though the shopping is amazing, I try to do most of it while visiting Toronto. Everything is suddenly a deal there. Even doing my laundry is a bit of an investment. I’ll add £10 to my laundry top-up card and it shows up as $18.50 on my PayPal account.

When I first moved here, I began teaching English online, which was amazing because I didn’t have to leave my room. But once payday came around, I’d see those earnings cut nearly in half because of the conversion rate into my U.K. bank account. Fortunately, I have enough savings to sustain myself for the time being and get a start in copywriting.

So, if you’re planning to move abroad (particularly across the pond), have enough saved up to sustain yourself for several months, know the average cost to live in that city (this includes food, having a social life, transportation costs, etc.,). And finally, Poundland is your new best friend. Yes, that’s their dollar store. I got a kick out of that when I first heard it.

Of course it’s not all cheap, fresh produce and beachside views, but at this point in my life, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be, regardless of cost. There isn’t a more vibrant city with fine culture, breathtaking architecture, and friendly — if sometimes aloof — people. Yes, it rains but it’s also very entertaining when the entire city shuts down and everyone pulls out phones to film a centimetre snowfall. Ultimately, the experience has been worth much more than the $9 loss of every laundry card top-up.

Nika Tomljenovic is a copywriter working on her master’s degree in London. Before becoming a writer, she was a realtor and marketing professional (it runs in her family). Reach her at bulldogcopy.com.


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The Urban and The Urbane

The Urban and The Urbane

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The Urban and The Urbane

by Rise Levy

Toronto is a rarity among large cities because it has been able to sustain rapid cosmopolitan progress while remaining a city of neighbourhoods. This unique balancing act explains the steady migration from the suburbs to the city that grows stronger with every passing year. There is a neighbourhood for every personality type, income level or stage of life.

Most large cities degenerate into urban jungles as they grow with a loss of green space, rising crime and a deteriorating school and transit system. Not Toronto. You will find the kinds of leafy neighbourhoods with great schools and playgrounds and parks that make parenting easier and life feel mellow in all four corners of the city. Life in the suburbs provides the same leafiness but it comes with some cultural sacrifices. In all four directions of Toronto you have unique boutique shopping, theatres and the arts and international dining.

There are wonderful condo developments in every area of the city that allow you to benefit from all the perks of the chosen area without the colossal price tag. Do you love areas like Forest Hill or Lawrence Park but you don’t have $5 million dollar rattling around in your pocket? No problem. There is an elegant condominium waiting for you. Do you love the arts and music and the theatre? The young and trendy will find happiness in Liberty Village or Harbourfront or on Queen Streets east and west. Maybe you are an affluent urbanite with a taste for designer fashion and designer food; if so, welcome to your sophisticated Yorkville area condo.

The condo boom has put city living within reach for people at every income level and lifestyle need. With a resale home market gone mad, you can find beautifully finished multilevel townhomes and two-level condos for a fraction of the cost of semis in the same neighbourhoods. At the other end of the scale, you will find studios and small one bedrooms for the young and ultra social who are rarely home but prefer to invest their money rather than pouring it down the renter’s hole.

For people who want it all there is no better place to live than right here in Toronto!

Suddenly Single

Your life was settled (or so you thought) and you had a spacious suburban home and good schools for the kids and an okay marriage. Sometimes you felt cut off from the lively social or cultural life of the city but you thought the trade off was worth it. But when the kids left for college the bottom fell out of the marriage and here you are suddenly single. The suburbs are designed for families but that isn’t you anymore, so it is time for a new beginning.

It is time for your fabulous new condominium in the city. This time around you have the confidence and the money to know where and how you want to live. This time it is all about you and your tastes and your interests. At last you get to decorate for you with no more kid-friendly concerns. No more man caves, either. Your new condo has a state-of-the-art gym and maybe a pool. Your new condo provides a variety of social functions to help you get your sea legs as you start off on this new voyage. You reconnect with old friends who never seemed to make it to your old suburban neighbourhood but are happy to meet you for dinner at that new restaurant down the street. You are seeing the plays you used to read about but never saw. You are going to art galleries and browsing the antique stores and shopping the design stores and one-of-a-kind boutiques. You are meeting new people. You are dating!

At the end of the day you return to your new condo where everything looks and feels like you. The concierge pampers you and there is no grass to cut or sidewalks to shovel — just a balcony, a view and a glass of wine. You tell yourself “this is the life I have been waiting for.”

The Battle Between the Kings and Queens of the East and the Kings and Queens of the West

Queen Street West is where bohemia began to give way to gentrification back in the 1980s and it just keeps moving ever westward. This move was followed in the ’90s by the transformation of the once grim and dowdy King Street West into condo heaven. Queen and King Street East languished for years and, in spite of their prime location, not much changed until the early 2000s. Real estate prices began to soar and Leslieville, Riverside and Corktown (as they are now designated) became the hottest areas of the city according to Toronto Life magazine (and the prices certainly bear that out.)

All along Queen Street lowrise buildings have been torn down and replaced with urban hipster-styled condos. Local greasy spoons have been replaced by dozens of restaurants and bars designed for the young and urban crowd. Design stores and unique clothing stores abound. Tired and drab old Queen East has been reborn and many of the Queen West bohemians driven out by high rents and chain stores have settled here for the married-with-kids part of their life. One ugly reminder remained until recently and that was the flop house strip club sleaziness of the Broadview Hotel. Well no more. The newly renovated Broadview Hotel is a fabulous addition to the neighbourhood with a rooftop restaurant bar that immediately became a destination requiring reservations well in advance. It was always a beautiful old building tragically fallen into disrepair but now it has been restored and modernized into a landmark Toronto can be proud to claim.

So, will there be a winner in the battle between the East and The West? Queen West still has a long head start but Queen East has a more family-friendly feel. Time will tell if there will be a winner or a draw.

The Empty Nesters Moving on Up

You got married and bought a house in the suburbs and then you had kids and you bought a bigger house and maybe you even sized up again. But now the kids have their own lives and you and your mate are living in a house that is too large and requires endless upkeep. You have had enough. Still you wonder, will you miss the space and the yard? What if one of the kids wants to move back? Do you want them to move back?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your life back? Wouldn’t it be nice to travel without worrying about the garden and the upkeep and just turn the key and hop on a plane? Oh yeah. It’s time for a condo.

Depending on your income, you can get a huge sprawling house-sized condo, or you can downsize and spend the extra income on travel and restaurants and theatre and fun (yes you can!). The beauty of a condo is that it can be in any area you favour and any size and price range, but the maintenance is not your problem and you have great amenities that — once again — are not your problem to maintain. After decades where everything was your problem, this is true luxury.

You really need to get a condo. I mean who deserves it more than you?

Rise Levy is the Senior Editor of Condo Life magazine.


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7 reasons to visit Holland in 2018

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7 reasons to visit Holland in 2018

Leeuwarden, that charming 10th-century town located in Friesland state, has been selected the European Capital of Culture for 2018 and the former royal residence has lots planned to celebrate its selection. The biggest attraction will be performances by the Royal de Luxe, the world-renowned French mechanical marionette street theatre company that uses giant figures to wow the crowds. Leeuwarden also has 50 major projects and hundreds of community initiatives planned throughout 2018.

Keukenhof Garden Show
The annual Keukenhof Spring Garden Show — an enormous floral spectacle — is held between March 22 and May 13 and people from all over the world come to admire the breathtaking display of over seven million tulips, daffodils and hyacinths. If you’ve never been, book a ticket with KLM or Air Canada because this is the most beautiful garden show in the world.

Alkmaar Cheese Market
The Alkmaar Cheese Market reopened on March 31 and will stay open until Sept. 29. The market, located in northern Holland about 30 minutes from Amsterdam, is where you’ll get to see 2,200 giant cheese wheels on display. These cheese markets date back to 1365 in Waagplein, the only town with a scale big enough to weigh the giant chess wheels at the time.

Gouda Cheese Valley
If you’re visiting Alkmaar’s cheese market, you might want to extend your stay and tour the Gouda Cheese Valley, where most of the cheese consumed by the Dutch — they pack away 15 kilos each a year — is produced. The cheese valley is made up of Gouda, Bodegraven, Reeuwijk, Woerden and Krimpenerwaard, and each town has a long history with the creamy product. Cheese first arrived in Holland in the Middle Ages.

National Mill Day
Don’t miss National Mill Day (May 12-13). On that day, 950 windmills and watermills open their doors to visitors and the lineups are usually long. The iconic windmills have played a major role throughout Dutch history in reclaiming land and processing raw materials. Some are quite beautifully decorated inside and out.

Cycling Kinderdijk’s Windmills
Speaking of windmills, you can see the greatest collection of Dutch windmills in Kinderdijk while cycling along a route that passes right in front of them. There are 19 windmills in Kinderdijk and the cycle path also cuts through some charming Dutch towns. Cycling in The Netherlands is easy and all areas have well-marked bike trails.

Heritage Days
On September 8-9, you can get free admission to about 4,000 historical buildings during Heritage Days. Just about every city in The Netherlands participates and you’ll get to see some real treasures in places like The Hague, Utrecht, Amsterdam and Maastricht.

For more information, visit https://www.holland.com/global/tourism.htm

Marc Atchison is a veteran journalist and a seasoned traveller with more than 20 years of travel writing experience. http://www.travelife.ca/


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Laugh for your life

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Laugh for your life

It is quickly spreading into many different areas as people come to realize how the benefits can improve their lives. Its mission is to provide good health, joy and create a world without pain and illness. It helps people to deal positively with mental, physical and emotional stresses that can otherwise lead to a breakdown in the workplace and in their private lives.

Modern day stressors, worries and lifestyle changes have increased the rate of heart diseases, which are a major cause of death and despair.

Even as doctors and patients try to minimize the risk factors, scientific studies have proved that laughter is the simplest answer to a healthy heart. An extended hearty laugh is one of the fastest ways to accelerate heart rate and provides an excellent cardiovascular workout and heart massage.

Dr. Michael Miller, a leading heart researcher and associate professor of medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center, discovered that laughter expands the blood vessels, promoting circulation and reducing blood pressure.

Laughter yoga offers the opportunity to feel refreshed, stress-free and confident any time, providing all the physiological and psychological benefits of laughing without the necessity of telling jokes or even feeling good to start. In the workplace, absenteeism is reduced and job satisfaction increases. The good communication and positive relations that result support an effective workforce.

Simple, repeatable, and easily learned, laughter-communication games are powerful tools for achieving employee satisfaction, boosting morale while opening lines of communication. People who laugh together are more likely to collaborate, to offer helpful suggestions, and to dissipate tensions that can otherwise accumulate on the job. We can enjoy the experience of laughter, but what we don’t see is how beneficial it is for our internal body chemistry. Love and laughter are the twin building blocks that hold life together, Miller says. It seems to make a lot of sense that the pleasant feelings and images that emerge through laughter alter your body chemistry in a good way — supporting your immune system.

An enthusiastic and infectiously positive speaker, Kathryn Kimmins directs unforgettable laughter experiences. Her sessions dissipate stress while refocusing participants. Cheeks get rosy, eyes clear and twinkle, impish grins are everywhere and the room rapidly fills with friendly smiles. Her educational and experiential class boosts self confidence, brain health, improves retention, increases heart health, encourages team building, motivation, imagination and creativity.



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