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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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

 

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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.

 

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BarNotes: Pitcher Perfect Sangrias

24th June 2017

Sangria Recipe

I’m not much of a wine drinker but when it comes to sangrias, they are my all time favourite summer libation. Refreshing and full of sweet and tart fruity goodness, I’ve perfected making this boozy bevy. Here’s my spin on the classic white sangria…


Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of white Zinfandel
  • 1 cup of sparkling water (leave this out if you don’t like the fizz)
  • 2 cups of white grape juice
  • 2 cups of your favourite fruit (or use fruity ice cubes as per notes)
  • 8-10 mint leaves

Preparation:

First put your fruit and mint leaves in a pitcher and gently mash to release some of the flavour. Then add your wine and juice. Stir in the sparkling water just before you serve so it doesn’t go flat. Chill for 4+ hours before consuming.

 

Bartender Notes:

Instead of slicing up fruit, make fruity ice cubes instead and have your guest personalize their drink with their favourite flavours – it’s a more pretty and fun way to serve your sangrias! All you need to do is puree 5 or 6 different types of fruit (or herbs like mint or basil) in a blender with water and freeze them in ice cube trays overnight.

For sangrias with a Southern flare, slice fresh peaches and use rosé wine.

Want something exotic and Asian inspired? Pop in lychees, mangoes, passion fruit or colourful pieces of dragon fruit.

If you need to use a sweetner, try organic agave.

If you prefer more tart, substitute the white grape juice with lemonade or fresh wedges of lemons and limes.

Garnish with fresh sugar cane sticks. Cheers!

 

#GirlBoss: Nichelle Laus of OTC Toronto

22nd June 2017

Optimum Training Centre

Nichelle is a fitness model, personal trainer and the owner of Optimum Training Centre, a 6,000 sqft training facility in Toronto. She’s known for her 8 weeks to fabu-LAUS program and oh did I mention she’s a mom of four boys?! Let’s find out how this ex-cop turned mompreneur stays on top of her fitness game and what exercises she recommends for other busy moms…

What’s a day in the life of Nichelle Laus like? 

Being a mom to 4 little ones and owning a business, it is pretty hectic. Sometimes I don’t even know how I fit it all in but I do because I have to. There is no other choice and to make things happen, you have to hustle. You can’t sit there and dream about making things happen. You have to go out and make them happen!

My average day usually starts really early in the morning. I get up at 5:00 am and hit the gym at 5:30 am for my daily workout. I like to get it done early so it doesn’t interrupt family time, and I don’t have to worry about finding the time during my busy day to get it done.

I have a pretty busy, yet manageable schedule because I make sure everything has a time slot. I also leave room for surprises, a flexibility is key when you a momtrepreneur!

After getting 3 of the 4 kids off to school, I head into work, Optimum Training Centre, which is my personal training studio in Etobicoke. I train clients for a part of the day, and of course, work on the administrative stuff that comes along with owning your own business.

Nichelle Laus

After 3:00pm, I go into full time Mom mode again, which involves after school activities, cooking, cleaning, laundry and snuggles. Once the kids go to bed at night, I relax by having a bath or shower, then work on my other business, my online transformation business.

I enjoy my busy lifestyle. A lot of people wonder why and how I do so much but I really enjoy what I do and because I love it so much, I don’t look at it as work. It’s my passion and if I can motivate or inspire one person a day, my job is done. The rest is gravy.

 

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Soundpays: make purchases instantly from digital ads

19th June 2017

Soundpays App

This is a sponsored post.

I tend to be an early adopter when it comes to technology. If something maximizes my convenience, lets me skip the lineup or is an innovation that is simply way cool… I want to be the first to know.

And that’s why Soundpays caught my eyes and ears.

It’s a mobile wallet app that… WAIT FOR IT…

Soundpays

Transmits product purchase information (using inaudible sound waves) to your smartphone so you can make purchases directly from ads you see on TV, online or from a digital sign!

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