Sunday | October 20, 2019

Moving to Toronto

Toronto is a great city. In fact, it’s consistently ranked one of the best and most livable cities. With a population of 2.79 million people and 5.5 million in the Greater Toronto Area, it’s Canada’s largest city and one of the most multicultural on the planet.

If you’re moving to Toronto, it can be overwhelming and exciting at the same time. Here are a few things you should know:

Toronto is one of the safest large cities in the world. You can ride the subway and walk around, even at night, without worrying. But there are still some areas that are safer than others. Make sure you know where you’re going before you end up in the wrong part of town. How can you learn more about where to go and not go? Torontonians are friendly—ask someone for help if you’re lost or need directions. Pick up a local paper for recommendations on where to go and things to do. Toronto Life magazine, Toronto Star and Metronews (a free paper) are great places to start. They won’t steer you wrong. There are also lots of websites, such as toronto.com or tripadvisor.ca you can visit and books to read that will offer you advice about the best places to see—and the places to avoid.

Toronto is very multicultural—and cultural. That means there are lots of neighbourhoods to explore and festivals to attend. The summer is an especially good time to check out all the culture Toronto has to offer. There’s Pride festivities, Taste of the Danforth, food truck festivals and jazz and arts celebrations. Visit the Beaches, Queen Street West, Yorkville and Harbourfront, to name a few popular destinations. There is so much amazing food to eat and things to see, so whatever you’re craving, Toronto is a haven for culture. No matter who you are or where you’re from, everyone is welcome in Toronto.

Ride the Rocket. You’ve probably heard that traffic in Toronto is atrocious. Whomever told you that is right. Learn to ride the TTC subway system and use the bus routes. You can get a student rate on a Metropass or pay the regular fare, which is $3.25. The TTC’s website (ttc.ca) has lots of information to help you get where you need to go. More above-ground routes are being planned to make the city even more accessible. You can even take a train directly from Union Station to Pearson International airport. If you enjoy biking, there are lots of bike lanes in the downtown core. Or you can always take a taxi or hop in an Uber. If you’re driving, look for Green P parking or other paid lots. Pay attention to parking signs or you could end up with a ticket. And don’t text and drive or drink and drive. The police are always monitoring to ensure drivers are driving safely and obeying the laws of the road.

The city is expensive. There’s no way to sugar coat it. Housing is especially costly—the average detached home is now more than $1 million. Rent can also be high, but the good news is there are lots of condos and apartments for rent in every part of the city. Do you know where you want to live? Do you have a roommate to share the cost? Is student housing available to you? Do your research and find some place convenient and affordable. While housing prices are high, other things can be found on the cheap. Get recommendations from foodies to find delicious, affordable places to eat. There’s lots to be found. “Street meat” (hot dogs sold by vendors on street corners) is tasty and cheap.

Make friends. Toronto is a big city and it can be overwhelming when you first arrive. You’ll want to do your best to meet people. While it can be scary at first, this is a great opportunity to explore new interests and get involved. Join a gym, sign up for a class, volunteer or participate in a local student group. There are no shortage of ways to meet people. You will quickly find that Toronto is home.

June 28th, 2017

Posted In: Community, Uncategorised

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Protect your Family Against Mosquitoes this Summer

Summertime means it’s mosquito season. Not only do those pesky insects cause itchy, red welts on your skin, they can also pass viruses, like West Nile and dengue fever, from person to person.

So how can you protect your family against mosquitoes this summer? Here are a few tips:

Scientists know that mosquitoes aren’t attracted to people who are “sweeter.” In fact, research shows these little insects are more attracted to bigger people than little people, men over women, and even pregnant women over non-pregnant.

If you’re hot and sweaty, you’re also a magnet. So are people who move around a lot. If you stand still, you’re less likely to get bitten.

Everyone in these target groups are more attractive because they produce more heat and carbon dioxide. If you’re in any of these groups, you’ll want to take extra precautions.  

Which methods offer the best protection? Eating bananas and garlic won’t help. Despite any myths, there’s no anti-mosquito diet that has been proven to work. Some people use vitamin B12 patches that reduce bites up to 40 percent. Still, it doesn’t prevent bites altogether.

Citronella candles offer weak benefits at best. If a breeze comes along, any protection blows with the wind. You can use citronella oil on the skin as an option. Wearing perfumes, even if they are sweet, can also act as a repellent because their oils can deter bites.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Mosquitoes love to bite when the weather is 12 to 22 degrees Celsius.[/pullquote]

Temperature and sunlight matter most. Mosquitoes love to bite when the weather is 12 to 22 degrees Celsius. When it’s below 10 degrees Celsius, mosquitoes don’t really bite. Colder evenings offer natural protection.

You’ll also want to get rid of stagnant water that collects in buckets and birdbaths, as these attract mosquitoes. Dry areas are better. Yet not all water bodies attract mosquitoes. Clean chlorinated pools and hot tubs are safe as well.

Try covering your skin with light coloured tight-knit clothing. Research shows that dark colours attract mosquitoes better than light colours, though nobody knows exactly why this is the case.

The best way to prevent getting bitten altogether is to use a bug spray recommended by experts like the Environmental Protection Agency. They have an online tool to help you find products that will work for you.

Why do bites bother us in the first place and what can we do if we are bitten? When a mosquito bites, they draw your blood and inject their saliva, which contains proteins that trigger your immune system. Your body will release histamine to fight the protein, and this is what causes itchiness and swelling.

[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Not everyone is affected in the same way.[/pullquote]

Not everyone is affected in the same way. While bites don’t bother some people, others will become very itchy, red and swollen around the site of the bite.

If you do get bitten, try not to scratch. Scratching causes inflammation, which will give you more of an itching sensation. If you scratch so much you break the skin, you can be at risk for infection.

There are many remedies that can help relieve symptoms. You can apply a cold compress, calamine lotion or rubbing alcohol. Honey contains natural applying antibacterial ingredients. Applying a cold tea bag or taking an oatmeal bath can offer relief, too. Over-the counter-medicines, like an antihistamine, will also work. In most cases, bites will clear up in a few days.

See a doctor if you get hives, have a hard time breathing or you feel your throat closing up. If you’re travelling, you’ll also want to see a doctor in case there’s a vaccine that can help prevent mosquito-borne diseases.

June 9th, 2017

Posted In: Community, Nutrition, Uncategorised

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Develop Your Teenager’s Moral Code

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It’s about hanging on during a very bumpy ride.”[/pullquote]

Your teenage son or daughter is bombarded with influences from more sources than any generation before them. Consider just a handful of the influences teens are faced with:

  • School friends, peers and faculty
  • Neighbourhood friends
  • Celebrity influences like musicians, internet celebrities and others in the media spotlight
  • Community leaders and laggards
  • Romantic interests
  • Siblings, extended family and you…their parents
  • Employers at part­-time jobs, or sports coaches and teammates

You likely feel like you’re fighting a losing battle sometimes when you are trying to influence your teen’s choices as they mature. There may be times when you feel like throwing in the towel, but short term perseverance will lead to long term gain.

Here’s how to become the role model, guide and confidant your teen needs you to be.

Tailor Your Approach

It’s likely you get no end of advice from your own friends, parents and social circles on how to best nurture your teen’s moral compass. Take the advice with appreciation, but act in the best interests of your family’s long term happiness. Adolescent men and women respond differently to different approaches, and they’ll evolve over time.

The more opportunities you can take to get your teen to unplug, unwind, and speak their mind openly, the better chance you will have to succeed. Avoid being confrontational, or judgemental with your son or daughter. It may cause them to retreat and stifle communication, especially if they suffer from insecurity or shyness.

Don’t be a Buddy or a Taskmaster

Striking the right balance between disciplinarian and pal takes work. You might miss the years when your child was a toddler or pre­teen, when their dilemmas were simpler, and they were less rebellious and filled with roaring hormones. You have to have be there to reward your teen when they follow the right path, but be willing to show measured discipline when they don’t.

Here are some elements of your personality which you’ll want to leverage most:

  • Your sense of humour ­ about yourself, and life lessons
  • Patience and forgiveness
  • Adaptability and having an open mind
  • Fortitude to deliver consequences and reward consistently and as deserved

There are going to be times when your teen will try your patience. As parents, you want to show a united front when guiding your son and or daughter through their teen years, in good times and bad. If your teen sees Mom and Dad as being in different camps, they could play one side against the other.

Know When to Lead, Observe and/or Insert Yourself

There are some case where you need to trust your teen to try something, and succeed or fail. Allowing a teen to test boundaries is often better than sheltering them from the consequences making mistakes. If they want to try something that is:

  • Legal and moral
  • Won’t break the rules of their social sphere
  • Doesn’t cause long­term, negative consequences

Build their trust by letting your teen exercise some independence, but be prepared to support them if they fail without judgement. The teen years are a pivotal time for every person’s development to independence, and you need to know when to take off the training wheels.

In terms of friends, both of the same and opposite sex, it’s especially important to create an environment where your teen is comfortable introducing you to their friends. Creating tension when a friend is around could drive some relationships “underground”, and you’ll lose your opportunity to be an influence should relationships get toxic.

Do your best to have relationships in your own life which set a good example for how to treat friends and loved ones. Whether Mom and Dad are together or separated/divorced, the best gift you can give to your child is to have as much friendly, positive communication in their lives as possible. A reasonable amount of respect goes a long way to building your teen’s confidence and trust.

Parenting expert, Dr. Ron Taffel said of parenting teens,

Even as kids reach adolescence, they need more than ever for us to watch over them. Adolescence is not about letting go. It’s about hanging on during a very bumpy ride.”

Though it’s tempting to steer your teen towards the smoothest, least travelled roads in life, sometimes you have to let them get a few flat tires and scratched fenders along the road to a responsible adulthood.

June 6th, 2017

Posted In: Community, Education, Parenting, Uncategorised

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How Quality and Quantity of Sleep Impacts Academic Performance

Children and teens require more sleep than adults to perform at their best. Even with marginally more sleep, they’ll be better prepared both physically and mentally to perform to the best of their abilities.

In a perfect world, you could let your son or daughter in on this nugget of wisdom, and they would quickly adopt sleeping habits which are conducive to good grades.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a perfect world.

Nevertheless, here are six reasons you should strive to get your kids to sleep more. Their grades will improve, and they’ll likely be a lot more charming and co-operative at home, too!

1. Memory

Have you ever noticed that when you have a restful night’s sleep, you tend to have better recall for names, to-dos, and basic facts?

The same goes for your kids. It might be tempting to let your kids stay up to all hours of the night studying and cramming for a test. It’s better for their brains to study earlier in the day, catch some zeds, and then approach the test or exam with a refreshed mindset.

The Sleep Foundation has done thorough studies, and discovered that a good night’s sleep:

  • Prepares the brain to absorb data into memory
  • Process the information, and reason through it for understanding
  • Retain the information, and prepare the brain to return facts/info when needed

If you haven’t left this page to find out how to join The Sleep Foundation, you can do your own studies at home. If your whole family starts to get more sleep, you’ll remove the “fear of missing out” (FOMO) factor of staying up late, and help everyone’s memory to recall how helpful this blog was.

Not to mention, your son or daughter will improve their memory of when they need to do homework, take out the garbage, or do the dishes!

2. Anxiety Relief

When your kids sleep, their brain produces serotonin and norepinephrine chemicals, which help to reduce stress and anxiousness. These chemicals are created by your brain’s neurotransmitters when allowed to rest during deep (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep.

The kind you have when you dream.

If you were an anxious child, you might remember how it was difficult to do your best at school when you felt nervous or stressed out at school. You might still feel that way at work.

3. Healthy Lifestyle = Better Sleep

Many of the behaviours which are beneficial to good performance at school, are the same which lead to good health.

They include:

  • Exercise
  • A balanced, healthy diet
  • Limiting stimulants like caffeine, screen time and sugar
  • Getting enough fresh air

If your child has healthy meals, snacks and stays away from too many soft drinks and chocolate bars, they’ll likely find it’s easier to sleep. It’s a good idea to have your son or daughter get outside and burn off some anxiety by playing a sport, riding a bike, or taking a walk.

By enjoying these activities with your child, you’ll improve your own sleep patterns.

4. How Much Sleep Is Enough?

If you have a teenager, or teenagers in your house, encourage them to get as close to nine hours of sleep as you can. It may seem like a lot, but it’s the recommended amount of light and deep sleep, according to the US National Institute of Health. (See link just above).

Infants should get sixteen hours of sleep, and children should get something in between.

Sleep deprivation may seem like a great idea when a favorite TV show is on, or a video game achievement is just within reach, but consistent shortage of sleep will cause a neurological “crash” of sorts, once your sleep bank is overdrawn.

5. Sharpen Attention

Attention in class is critical. If you find your teen or child isn’t paying attention to you at home, their teacher(s) are likely seeing the same behaviour. Focus and attention are directly impacted by the amount of sleep you have, so encourage your child to get a full eight or nine hours.

If you can avoid arguments at bedtime, you’ll create the best environment for sleeping for everyone. Conflict, as you know, builds up stress or excitement. Try reading a story, encouraging your child to read a paper book, and try to build consistent habits before bed, so life is predictable. An hour of quiet, calmness and serenity before bed is a good way to ease into sleep. When kids don’t get enough sleep, they tend to get hyperactive, as opposed to tired like adults.

6. Improve Creativity

A rested brain can also spur creativity, as it can source different regions of the brain, and create relationships between thoughts better. The attributes above can help improve memory and logic for classes like math, history or science. If you have a child who is very artistic, it’s a good idea to remind them once in awhile that more sleep can stimulate their creativity too!

If your child can focus and maintain their attention for extended periods in the classroom, and retain what they are taught more effectively, their academic performance is sure to improve.

Sleep also helps improve metabolism, which can help to reduce weight. If your child is struggling with weight issues, encourage them to adopt healthier behaviours including diet, sleep and exercise, and their academic performance could benefit.

If your child is struggling in school, try encouraging sleep as a way to cope with the stress and demands of the school day. Calm, supportive conversations, as opposed to conflict and argument is the best way to encourage good sleep habits.

June 1st, 2017

Posted In: Athletics, Education, Parenting, Uncategorised

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