Category Archives: Life

Let’s Not Make It A Political Or Geographic Thing, It’s A People Thing!

23rd July 2018

Flowers Basil

I had planned on staying glued to the news and mourn silently from abroad because my home town of Toronto is Trending on social media for another tragic shooting. One too many all in a few weeks. I’m SAD, SAD, SAD and now angry because my Twitter feed has been peppered that somehow the Danforth Shooting was America’s fault (guns coming across the border)!!

Why do I care because everyone is blaming America for its poor leadership so what’s one more eye poke?

I CARE because my husband and I chose to move our son to the United States last month despite how ‘discriminating, violent and horrible’ a county it is. (Thank you friendly Canadians for pointing that out.)

HOWEVER….

Yesterday, a woman who lives across the street decided to come over just to say hello. This is our first meeting. She wore a red 45 #maga hat. She came back a few hours later with flowers, basils and strawberries, all grown from her garden and a cookie for my son.

In our King West condo, we’ve been in an elevator with neighbours riding up/down 30 floors, listening to Trump bashing and boycotting the US. Not a nod of a greeting, no acknowledgement that there is a little human being making a silly monster face at you (too busy on Instagram and tripped over our stroller).

Sure this is a small gesture but what experience do you think my son is going to remember having lived in both countries? When we teach him acts of kindness, who’s a better example?

I love you Toronto but you are so full of hate now and I’m heartbroken.

I’m just saying… friends, please don’t make it a political thing. Or a geographic thing. I keep reading how people are ‘shocked that it happened in such a family oriented community’. That’s just naive. Because at the end, it’s really a people thing. <– This goes for guns too.

Banning weapons works in functional societies. And it clearly appears that ours is broken. So let’s address the bigger issues of mental health and a burnt out over medicated population (especially in large dense cities like Toronto). Lock up anything that is destructive but if there is a will, there is a way.

And really why do you want to see a whole country fail because of one election? Because that also means you want to see my family fail since we now live here and my husband’s business is 90% American.

So as I’m typing this in my cozy home in California, my son is at summer camp and I’m not even sure where hubs is but I hope they (and your family) are safe. Such incidents like this remind us that no one and no place is invincible. Canada AND United States. Let’s work on being kind to each other.

End rant.

 

Summer Beauty Favourites

11th July 2018

Summer Beauty

When it comes to beauty in the summer, less is definitely more. I like to keep my routine quick and simple. Here are my favourite products to help you get through the sun and heat…

Argan Brightening Facial Scrub

Acure Organics is one of my favourite beauty brands. For the past five years, I’ve been using their facial wash, toner and this fabulous scrub (twice a week) to get a deep cleansing experience like I would at a fancy spa. The scrub has just the right amount of grainy texture so you can feel it working on your face but it’s still gentle enough that sensitive skin doesn’t feel tight or dried out. ($15)

Burt’s Bee Facial Towelettes

I always have these wet towelettes stashed in my purse so I could remove makeup and excess oil lickety split. The Peach and Willow Bark version exfoliates (bonus!) and smells absolutely delicious. They comes in a pack of 30 and are a beauty must-have at home and on the go. ($10)

Lavanila The Healthy Deodorant

I love the Lavanila product line because they use natural ingredients and are bursting with beautiful scents like vanilla, lemon, coconut and grapefruit. This deodorant contains no aluminum, paraben or propylene glycol and doesn’t leave yellow pit marks on your white shirts. The only downside is it doesn’t stop sweat completely so if you are really active, you will need to reapply the deodorant to ensure maximum odour protection. ($17) Also comes in a travel size. ($11)

 

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A Step By Step Guide To Moving To The United States

4th July 2018

Moving To USA

When CJ needed more green space, we quickly realized that our big city life was expiring. Then hubby wanted to be closer to his clients to grow his business and after an extra long stretch of winter, I was simply done with the cold…  so we began hatching out a plan to move from Toronto to the SF Bay Area!

As exciting as it is moving to another country, it is also a LOT of work. Planners got to plan right! It took over a year to secure our E1 Visas, sell most of our stuff and transition our business. We even snuck in some travel in between, including a Route 66 road trip!  

Route 66

Now that we are finally here, I thought I’ll share some tips and advice to help other expats who are considering a move to the US, less overwhelming. From finding a new home to filing government paperwork, here are some important things you should know and plan before throwing that farewell party…

US Visas

There are many types of visas. Most common ones to get are through a company, whether it’s an internal transfer or a new hire. If you own a small business, you may qualify for the E1 or E2 visa. I wrote a detailed step by step guide on how to apply for an E1 visa here.

Importing a Car (from Canada to US)

While this is not a costly endeavour, it is a time consuming and very tedious process so I’ve dedicated an entire post and outlined the 5 mandatory steps here. If you are driving there are 2 options: import your car at the border or wait till you get to the port of your new home State. You can also visit the US Customs and Border Protection website for more information.

International movers or pack your own pod?

My cousin moved from Ottawa to LA and she spent over $5,000 USD hiring movers. Since we sold most of our furniture and just needed to move 35 boxes and our bicycles, we decided to use a Pod service. To keep costs even lower, we actually drove our stuff across the Buffalo border and loaded it into the Pod ourselves. Instead of having them drop it off/pickup, we saved $2,000 and ended up paying around $3,000 for a 16x8x8 container.

Since we planned on taking our time to drive Route 66, there was no rush in getting our things delivered at a set time. So from Toronto to San Francisco, the Pod arrived in 9 days and we had it stored for the rest of the month for an additional $160. 

Departure meeting with a cross-border accountant

Do you know that if you have RSP’s, TFSA’s and other such Canadian investments, those can be taxed in the US? I didn’t either!

That’s why it’s important to setup an appointment with an accountant who specializes in cross-border taxes at least one month before you leave. You’ll receive advice on restructuring personal assets and/or how to most efficiently conduct business in the US if you are a SMB owner. (You may need to setup a B Corp etc.)

At $300-500 CAD for a one or two hour meeting is pretty expensive but I still consider this a worthy investment. IRS is mean and complicated to navigate yourself especially during your first transitional year!

Finding accommodations

Put the word out and start your search about 5-6 months before your desired arrival. We decided on a short term rental which I lucked out and found on Craigslist. We figured half a year is a good timeline to feel out a neighbourhood before committing. And since we sold all our furniture, we picked a  furnished place to ease the stress of having to immediately go shopping.

Airbnb and HomeAway are obvious places to look for rentals and I use them often for vacations but I found with longer term stays, the service fees can add up. However, you can always reach out to the owner and negotiate a monthly rate as well. I’ve seen some that were discounted 40% for longer term stays! Don’t forget to also scope out Zillow, local Facebook groups, Sabbatical Homes and World Schooler Exchange . In the East Bay, the community site Berkeley Parents Network (BPN) rocks for finding short term stays.

If you plan on buying, talk to a realtor 7-8 months before your target moving date. Give even more time in competitive real estate markets. If you are planning to move to the Bay Area, my cousin, Kelvin owns Sequoia Real Estate so give him a ring!

 

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How To Import Your Car From Canada To USA

30th June 2018

Import Car to USA

Hubby has a serious attachment to our car so when we made the move to the US, the car of course, was coming with us!

We considered railing it but after getting a quote of $3,000 USD, we decided the money would be better spent on a fun Route 66 road trip with hubby’s dad. CJ and I would then fly to Phoenix to meet them and the three or us would continue the drive to our new home.

During our research we found articles that were outdated or written by people who never even went through the process! So we decided to share our experience of how we imported our car from Toronto to San Francisco.

There are 5 mandatory steps…

1. Get a clearance letter

Three weeks before your department date, call your vehicle’s corporate office to request a clearance letter. Which basically states that your car conforms to safety and environmental protection standards. They will ask for your VIN and other manufacture information which can be found on the stickers on the driver’s side.

At Lexus it took less than one week to receive this letter by email and there was no charge. However, we did have a scare when we found out that vehicles made after 2007 were required to have a tire pressure feature. Luckily the premium package for our RX350 had it so we were cleared!

Prepare ample time to get this letter incase modifications are required or you decide to avoid the hassle altogether and just buy a new car when you get to the US.

2. Paperwork at the border

We entered the US at the Detroit border. There was a one page ‘vehicle clearance’ form to fill out and an inspection by the Border Patrol Officer. Remember to have your proof of registration with you. Your name and ownership title must match the purchase agreement or you will need to go back to your dealership to get this corrected. (This could be the case if you purchased your car second-hand from Craigslist or if the car was given to you by your parents, etc.)

Because of an agreement with NAFTA, there is currently no import charge.

Alternatively you can import your car at a port in the State which you plan on moving to. Here are the ports of entry. IMO this is an easy process so it’s better to get it done and over with when you cross the border instead of driving all the way to your new home State. Imagine if  somehow your car doesn’t meet standards and you end up having to drive all the way back!

 

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Update: Back In Toronto For A Wee Bit

15th April 2018

City Refinery Wendy

We are back from Costa Rica and will be in Toronto for April.

I didn’t realize until I stepped away for 3 months how much city life grinds on you. It really made me into an anxious production ruled by competitiveness and FOMO. Slow traveling has definitely helped me reset, become more tolerant and less rushed. So I am hoping to walk into the next chapter with a healthier purpose and higher consciousness!

Toronto Raptors Playoffs

Plans have shifted slightly since my last update… our Pod has been packed and shipped off so I can finally relax! Hubby is going ahead and driving Route 66 with his dad while CJ is sleeping over at my parent’s. Which means I get one whole week of me time! <insert happy dance>

Kiin Toronto

I’m looking forward to the Raptors playoffs, a spa day at Body Blitz, checking out the new SpinCo, indulging in all my favourite restaurants like Kiin (try their vegan Khao Yum made with 16 ingredients), Saku Sushi, Tabule and SLEEPING IN!!!

CJ + I will then fly to Arizona in May to meet hubby and from there, we will continue the Route 66 drive to our new home in California!

 

Update: From Toronto to Las Vegas to San Francisco to Costa Rica!

1st March 2018

Volcano Villa La Fortuna

Hola from Costa Rica!

It’s been two months since we left Toronto. Sorry I’ve left this blog neglected! I haven’t been able to find the right words to describe what I was going through without bringing on the tears. So I decided that what I really needed to do was unplug, soak up life and take it day by day rather than battle it out with writer’s block.

Moving Boxes

The last quarter of 2017 was intense and anxiety ruled me.

My departure was an overload of emotions. I was excited to escape the deep freeze that blanketed the city over the holidays, yet all the farewells and moving out of our King West condo — the home where we started our little family, completely broke me.

I could still hear the screeching sounds of tape running across box after box after box. The never-ending packing did eventually end and now it was just waiting for our ‘grand plan’ to unfold.

Everything was about to come together or maybe not! Over the next three months, we would be checking into 10 hotels and Airbnb’s… so I was anxious about double booking or worse, skipping a day and not having a roof over our heads!

Zumanity Las Vegas

Deep breaths… because adventure awaits!

What I told myself as I watched the New Year’s Times Square ball drop on TV… is that I probably won’t ever truly be ‘ready’. But it’s still ok to say yes even if I don’t have all the answers yet.

Nervous AF or not, it was 2018 and our first stop was Las Vegas. (You can read all about how I kept CJ entertained in Sin City while hubby attended his annual marketing conference here.)

After we flew to San Francisco where I had three weeks to pull together a plan and figure out where to live, where to setup our office, which school CJ would attend and all the other fun grownup stuff. Yep this is #momlife!

San Francisco Caltrain

By the end of our SF lag, poor hubby commented that he felt like an Uber driver. Sitting in I-280 traffic and patiently driving me from one neighbourhood to the next as we went through our extensive check-list.

Twenty one (yes, 21!!) neighbourhoods later, we shortlisted the top four: Burlingame + Los Altos on the Peninsula side and Lafayette + Walnut Creek in East Bay.

 

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Happy Holidays And Only Good Vibes For 2018

16th December 2017

2017 City Refinery 1

Hello friends!

I just resurfaced from fighting off one beast of a cold and now I’m onto my next battle – packing up our lives in Toronto and getting ready for our move to California in the new year!

2017 was a whirlwind of uncomfortable challenges, self discoveries and big emotions but many fond memories were also made….

BFF and I celebrated our birthdays in Barcelona. I was part of #TelusStories. We got our US Business Visas after a long and tedious administrative process! CJ started Little Kickers soccer and it’s so freakin’ cute. We threw a DIY pizza + cupcake party and went to Great Wolf Lodge for his 4th birthday. We also spent the summer exploring our beautiful Ontario backyard with trips to Blue Mountain, Deehurst Resort and Prince Edward County. After four years, I taught my final CampTech blogging class. Adfluent recently turned 7.0 and we celebrated our second year as a Google Partners ad agency! And well, since it can’t all be sparkly unicorn farts year round… I did have a mommy meltdown earlier this month. Lost my sh!t working through the insane logistics of our move and travel itinerary while trying to answer CJ’s gazillion questions (he’s at the ‘why’ phase now).

 

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This Is Spaces Toronto

7th December 2017

Spaces Queen West - Elevator Lobby

I am really excited that Spaces has opened up in Toronto! This means freelancers and girl bosses like myself will have another place to call their ‘second home’. Or third, fourth home. That’s right they have 60 locations worldwide!

I was invited to their launch party a few weeks ago and got a chance to check out the stunning new space myself.

Spaces Queen West - Entrance

Having the ‘right vibe’ in a co-working space makes all the difference. It’s the place where you get your hustle on, find inspiration and meet other creative makers. So it’s way more than just a place to plug in your laptop… think of Spaces Toronto as a cool 46,000 sqft office (without the politics and drama)!

Spaces Queen West - Business Club

Spaces sits snug in the Queen West neighbourhood. It’s actually the former Urbane Cycle. Which explains why there are bicycle spokes dangling from the lobby ceiling. And that wooden spiral staircase… it takes you up to the glass meeting rooms, private offices and reserved desks on the 2nd and 3rd floors.

 

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Holiday Gifts Worth The Splurge

1st December 2017

Holiday Gifts Guide 2017

Have someone super nice on your list that is splurge worthy? Then these luxury gifts will surely surprise and delight…

I love Tumi products for their stylish functional designs. This leather trimmed Dara Carry-All is the perfect go to bag to tote around a laptop, wallet, makeup and everything else in between. Free personalization available. $475

The Sonos compact speaker is mini but has mighty big sound! Streams over wifi so the dance party and beats never stops. $200

The Dyson Pure Cool Link removes up to 99.97% of pollutants and does so while directing a cool stream of fresh clean air. City condo dwellers can breathe a sigh of relief again. Available in blue or white. $500

You don’t need to be a gamer to fall in love with the new sleek Xbox One S. With a library of 1300+ games to chose from, it’s also a solution for your cable box and can stream 4K content from Netflix and YouTube. My son will soon be introduced to the world of Minecraft and I can’t wait to play Cuphead, an unique 1930s-inspired art style game with a banging soundtrack. $250

Give the gift of rest because sleep really is the new luxury! Casper has created this unique pillow-in-pillow design that boosts the perfect balance of softness and support. $85-100

Foodies will be obsessed with the Philips Air Fryer. Prepare healthier versions of favourite comfort foods lickety split with minimal mess to cleanup. $330

APL has made a pair of TechLoom rose gold sneakers for her. And these heather grey kicks for him are pretty sweet too. $140 USD

 

#TelusStories

16th November 2017

When technology meets creativity, opportunity, passion + grit, online businesses are born. Sharing my story of brand evolution, big dreams, crushed dreams and becoming a digital nomad with Telus.

Big thanks to Virginia Hastings and the Shine Media video crew for a fun day and helping this camera shy gal shine!