MomsTO Very Mommy Wine Festival

28th August 2017

MomTO

When CJ was born I found a fabulous tribe of new moms who lived downtown but there was definitely no wine served at our playdates.

And that’s what makes this event extra unique. MomsTO invite you and your babe to their inaugural Very Mommy Wine Festival on September 13 at the Artscape Wychwood Barns.

Join 500 other women to laugh, vent and celebrate the life changing experience of motherhood.

Your $65 ticket includes a swag bag, wine + canapes. And yes, it’s all you can drink and eat ladies!

 

The Suspense Is Killing Me… Give Me An Update Already!

16th August 2017

GoodVibesOnly

One of my pet peeves is Facebook updates that go something like this… ‘omg can’t believe this is happening, send me good vibes pleeeease’! WTF right?!

Well I wasn’t planning on being one of ‘those people’ that create unnecessary suspense with no followup but I’ve probably annoyed enough of you over the last few months — dropping hints then disappearing to the cottage and Spain for half the summer.

So I owe you guys an apology and update.

Before the guessing game continues that I got a job (no!), that I’m pregnant (nooo!), moving (yes), here’s what’s up with the fortune cookie photo I posted on Instagram…

Fortune Cookie

At the beginning of the year, we applied for a US Business Visa. Which explains why I was extra busy and cranky. Government paperwork is a beast!

Spring rolled around and we still hadn’t heard back. That’s when I started to lose my mind! Planners have to plan right?! Boxes were half packed. The deadline for CJ’s school tuition was coming up and we had no backup if he loses his spot. Travel plans grind to a halt. Our life was (almost) put on pause.

 

Continue reading

#GirlBoss: Chakameh Shafii of TranQool

12th August 2017

TranQool App

TranQool is a health and wellness service that aims to offer affordability and convenience to see a virtual therapist. Chakameh Shafii is the #GirlBoss who started TranQool as a result of her own struggles with anxiety. We spoke to her about startup life and how her team hopes to reduce the stigma associated with mental health.

1) What’s a day in the life of Chakameh Shafii like?

The first hour includes either a 10 mins meditation on Headspace or writing in my 5 mins journal, commuting to work, listening to podcasts and drinking coffee, of course. The rest of the day is filled with meetings, emails and work. I try to exercise almost every day (not weekends) at lunch or in the evening.

Chakameh Shafii 1

2) Tell us about TranQool.

TranQool was started from a conversation between friends. I did CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) for my anxiety while working full-time at a Fortune 500 company. It was very effective so I definitely recommend therapy to almost anyone seeking a better quality of live.

 

Continue reading

Let’s Go To The Ex 2017

3rd August 2017

CNE The Ex

The Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) or The Ex opens August 18 to September 4 – a bittersweet reminder that summer is officially coming to an end.

My parents brought me in a bassinet when I was a wee little baby (2 months old!) and it’s been my favourite family tradition that I’m now carrying on with CJ. I’m particularly excited this year because he is three and over 3ft tall which means he can start going on some of the midway rides!

I’m also hoping to get a glimpse of the solar eclipse. There will be a viewing party on the CNE grounds Aug 21. Which also happens to be Kids Twoonie Monday so there will be ride specials.

Bacon Nation

And of course there is all the wacky carnival food!

The menu has just been revealed! So we can expect Canadian classics like the cake poutine chased down with Tim Horton’s Fireworks Chill. Bacon will obviously be slathered on everything, from pancake tacos to salty breakfast bowls. Snack cravers will enjoy the Peanut Butter Sriracha Bites and Spaghetti Donut Balls while the more daring foodie can indulge in Bug Bistro’s vanilla softserve topped with crispy roasted crickets!

Eative even created a Dragon’s Breathe Crepe that claims to produces a fog-like gas that you can blow through your nose and mouth! And yikes, there are rumours of deep fried chicken feet!

Tim Hortons Fireworks Chill

The inaugural East Coast Kitchen Party will be hosted Aug 19-20 and the Craft Beer Fest + Food Truck Frenzy will be back for it’s second year on Aug 25-27.

What are you looking forward to the most at CNE this year?

Check out the full schedule and ticket info here.

 

More Summer Events In The 6ix

1st August 2017

Toronto summer 2017

Slather on that sunscreen and check out these fun events in The 6ix before summer flies by…

June 1 to Aug 18 – Adelaide Eats has extended to mid-month. Check out the food porn!

Aug 4 to 7 – Toronto Food Truck Festival is meals on wheels on another level.

Aug 11 to 13 – indulge in pan Asian food (including the stinky tofu if you dare) and explore the midway at the Waterfront Night Market.

Aug 12 – run with giant unicorns through cloud foam at the Colour Run 5k.

Aug 18 to Sept 4 – Let’s go to The Ex! A family tradition I’m now passing on to my little one.

Aug 19 to 20 – grab a lobster bib for the inaugural East Coast Kitchen Party at CNE.

 

Continue reading

How We Dined Out For 34 Consecutive Meals With A Toddler

26th July 2017

Dining out with kids

We are a family that dines out. A lot. At a week old, we took CJ out to his first restaurant. He’s now three and one would imagine he’s had plenty of practice honing his dining etiquette but let me tell you, the struggle is STILL real!

Sidenote: if you live or are visiting Toronto, check out my restaurant guide for families.

In our most recent vacation to Spain, we didn’t bother cooking in the tiny European kitchens so for 17 days, we ate at restaurants. That is 34 meals with a super rambunctious toddler. Yikes!

So how did we pull it off with just a few stained shirts?!?!

Well it definitely took more than a dozen trinkets to keep him entertained. And we obviously couldn’t keep offering his favourite foods — corn on the cob and chocolate cake!

Eating out with kids

Early in the trip CJ kept asking us why the waiter didn’t bring his ‘sert’ (that’s what he calls dessert). After several attempts of explaining that the ‘sert’ is the last course, and a round of endless ‘whys’ (yes, we are in that phase)… we took the opportunity to gamify the situation.

Each time the waiter walked by, we would say something like ‘oh he’s coming this way to see if your plate is cleared’… this prompted him to quickly eat his salad but then the veggie burger came and he got distracted with playing with the bun.

 

Continue reading

Where To Stay & Eat In Sitges Spain

16th July 2017

Sitges Spain

Endless blue skies. Every day. Yep, that’s Sitges. Known as the ‘St. Tropez of Spain’, this coastal town in north eastern Spain is packed with glam, great food, lively night life and 17 beaches! We spent a week here and it was such a lovely escape from the bustle of Barcelona.

Sitges

GETTING HERE:

Arrive by Renfe in 45 minutes from Estació de França in Barcelona. A one way ticket cost 4€ per person.

Renfe Spain

CHECKING IN:

Stay in the town centre. Sin Street (Carrer Pescado) is the hub where all the restaurants, bars and shops are clustered and the beaches are right there. It’s touristy though so expect to pay a premium for the convenience. It’s also really loud… like louder than NYC Times Square! Between the patios, people partying and 5am recycling trucks making their rounds, it’s a full immersion of noise 24/7!

Airbnb

We booked this Airbnb ‘White Sitges Apartment’ for $350/night in July.

If you are a light sleeper or prefer something more residential, Hotel Subur Maritim is a cute seaside inn with a pool.

 

Continue reading

A Step By Step Guide On How To Apply For An E1 US Visa

7th July 2017

US Visa

This post is based on my personal experience. I’ve linked to resources on the US Homeland Security and US Consulate websites but am not affiliated with them. 

Our journey started a year ago when our ad agency, Adfluent Media was in its sixth year of operation. Even though we are based in Toronto, a thriving tech hub,  we felt like we were constantly hitting a brick wall with our Canadian clients — who made up less than ten percent of our business. Meanwhile things in the US were rapidly growing. Pair that up with a long and harsh Canadian winter and I was often Googling “how to get a US visa”!

That’s when I discovered there was a lot of out dated and inconsistent information. Which prompted me to write this post to share my experience as a Canadian applicant. I’m not an immigration lawyer so I did have to hire one to help me get through the copious amount of paperwork but hopefully these 9 steps and tips can help you navigate through some of the daunting process…

 

First off, what is an E-1 Visa?

It is for business owners that already have existing business relationships with US partners. This non-immigration visa therefore, allows Canadians to live and work there so they can continue engaging in international business. The visa I got is good for five years. After that, if you show you can sustain your business, it will be renewed for another five years (indefinitely).

You can get more details about this visa here.

 

To qualify your business needs to…

  • Be Canadian or a nation of a country with which the US maintains a treaty of commerce
  • Carry on substantial trade
  • The principal trade exists when over 50% of the total volume of international trade is between the US and the trader’s treaty country

Even though this doesn’t sound overly complicated, I still recommend consulting with a lawyer. I’m really happy with the one I worked with from PwC so if you need a referral, send me a msg.

Our ad agency qualified — being a Canadian incorporated company who has been providing digital strategy services, media buying and online lead generation to US clients since 2010.

Point two (above) however, is pretty vague. Even our lawyer couldn’t pinpoint an amount to define ‘substantial’  but he believed we had a really strong case… in the last two years, we generated close to $2 million in US sales .

More important than the total amount though is the consistency and duration. For example, a company that does $10k every month will look more favourable than another company that has only done a one time transaction of $50k.

Note: closely related is the E-2 Treaty Investors visa so you may want to look into that to see if you better qualify under their requirements.

 

What are the nine steps involved with getting an E-1 Visa?

  1. Fill out a Nonimmigrant Visa Application DS-160

This is an online form requesting basic details such as your birthday, education, if you visited the US before, passport info, etc. You’ll also need to provide an estimated date of arrival and a contact in the US (I just used my friend). Make sure you have a current photo (yes, you can take a selfie but you’ll need to bring in actual passport photos for the consulate meeting.)

Each primary applicant and their spouse + children have to complete one. Luckily you don’t need to finish it in one sitting but you can save your work and come back to it later.

Time commitment: 60 minutes for each applicant.

 

    2. Create a 5 year business plan

By far the most time consuming part of this process was creating a biz plan. Aside from the ones I made up in university ages ago, I actually have never written a plan for a ‘real’ company! It ended up being 22 pages!

I included EVERYTHING! A SWOT analysis, a target market profile, an advertising strategy, a sales pipeline and a team hierarchy including future positions I plan to hire for. Yep all the key terms drilled into you in b-school are coming back to haunt you in real life! My accountant then helped me prepare the financial statements and a 3 years projection.

Time commitment: 16 hours

 

Continue reading

Happy Fourth Of July

3rd July 2017

Fourth of July Dessert

We typically don’t do much on Independence Day unless we happen to be traveling in the US but this year we have a big reason to celebrate!

In January, we applied for a US Business Visa. After taking down copious amounts of paperwork and then falling into a ‘black hole’ for several months (aka the administrative waiting period) we finally received our shiny red, white and blue visas last month!

<insert happy dance!>

So what does this mean? A huge milestone for our ad agency! After six years of being a Toronto based business, Adfluent will open our first American office. We will also get to split our time between living + working in Canada and the United States.

I’ll write a full update soon (because you know there is a crazy story behind it of course!) but now it’s time to celebrate!

I made this fruit platter for a little party I hosted for my family. I think it was a pretty cleaver way to share our exciting news! Happy Fourth of July everyone!

 

Dear Naysayers, Why I Need You In My Life…

29th June 2017

Believe in yourself

Dear Naysayers,

I’m not going to lie and tell you that I wasn’t affected by all the times you thought my dreams were too grand. When you told me how hard it was going to be or how many other people have tried before me and failed, I got scared and doubted myself… because your opinions matter.

To help boost my self motivation, I started reading ‘how to success in life and business’ articles. I learned I’m supposed to eject the Debbie Downers and surround myself with enablers. So I did just that. One of my oldest friends is my biggest cheerleader. Even before I tell him what I’m going to do, he’s telling me how awesome I’m going to be at it!

Lately I had to overcome some massive barriers. Not entirely new to me because I didn’t exactly get to where I am without jumping over one, two or fifty hurdles.

And it was during this time I had my aha moment…

Accomplishments happen and changes occur not necessarily when you have a tribe always rallying behind you. Rather people who challenge you, those who question your sanity, the ones that ‘what if’ you to death… those ones –> YOU unleash the hungry beast in me. Because I guess nothing irks me more than being told I can’t do something. Roarrrrrr!!!!

Oh no, please don’t think I’m mad or will unfriend you. Although you can turn the pessimism down a notch or two. Here’s why I actually need you to nay all over my life…

Because I was that shy 10 year old girl who hid behind her bangs with the ‘dumb science project idea’… that ended up winning second prize at the school Science Fair.

 

Continue reading