Month: February 2014

February 28-March 3: what to do/see/eat/drink in toronto

I can’t believe it’s the end of February already. I’m sure I say it at the end of every month but time is just flying! Here’s a few things going on this weekend in the city.

Do: This Sunday is the Oscars and a number of places around the city are showing it. The Drake Hotel is having an Oscar Party beginning at 6pm. There will be trivia, free popcorn and a special champagne menu. The evening will be hosted by Richard Crouse, movie critic from Canada AM and best of all, admission is free.

See: It is going to be cold this weekend (as this winter never seems to end) so why not hide indoors all day? I promise, no one will judge you. This weekend, you can hang out inside the warm TIFF Lightboox where the Toronto Irish Film Festival will be taking place beginning tonight through to Sunday. Tickets start at $12 and area available online or at the Lightbox, all screenings are restricted to 18+.

Eat: Piola’s on Queen West has all-you-can-eat-gnocchi between 5pm-9pm on the 29th of every month. Since there is no 29th of February this year, you can get your gnocchi fix a day early. The price is $14.99 and reservations are recommended (as of last night they still had a few spots available.

Drink: The Society of Beer Drinking Ladies hosts Bevy 0002 tonight at Dock Ellis. This event is only open to men and non-ticket holders after midnight, before that you have tickets (which are already sold out). Check out their website for upcoming events (they host one on the last Friday of every month). Dock Ellis is on Dundas near Dovercourt – the event is cash only.

Whatever you do this weekend, have fun and stay warm.

And now, for the Friday song: Guys Dance to Spice Girls (ok, maybe it’s not one song but their dancing is amazing and I love the spice girls)

thirsty thursday: molson canadian

Now this beer may seem just so everyday that it doesn’t need to mentioned but I think these guys deserve some love.

The Olympics wrapped up on Sunday with Canada winning the gold in men’s hockey. Overall, I think the games were great for our athletes and buzzfeed even had a list of all the awesome sportsman like conduct that Canada did through the games, which can often be forgotten.

Like many Torontonians, I woke up at 6:30am on Sunday to watch the game. I’d say bright and early but the sun wasn’t even up yet. My friends and I headed to the bar, I really wanted to go because I felt like it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Of course I’m sure the Canadians will make it to the finals again in the future but will laws be adjusted to allow us to celebrate again? No one really knows.

So, at 7am, I ordered my first drink. I decided that I must get a Molson Canadian. Not only did it seem like the patriotic drink of choice for the morning but I had also really appreciated their social media over the past few days. I have a fondness for great social media,

'breakfast beer'
‘breakfast beer’

This beer was fun to drink at such an exciting game. I assume that most people who have had beer in Canada have tried a Canadian at some point. It’s a great ‘everyday’ beer. It’s great for watching the hockey game in the winter or sipping on a dock in a muskoka chair in the summer.

Happy drinking!


book club: gone girl

So, I went to my first book club this week. It was run by someone I went to high school with and when she posted it on facebook, I asked to join. Our first book was ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn (I believe I mentioned this in my post about ‘The Room’). I liked the idea of a book club to be able to talk to someone about the books I’m reading and have a commitment so I’m more likely to dedicate time to reading. I had heard of it but didn’t really know what it was about but it seemed to be the book everyone was reading for months.

I really enjoyed it. I thought the narrative structure was absolutely amazing. The calculated thought that Flynn put into building the story is unbelievable. We’ve always heard that’s there’s actually three sides to every story, his-side, her-side and the truth, this book illustrates that perfectly. I don’t want to spoil any of the story line because every twist and turn is unexpected and unbelievable.  I don’t normally read thrillers or mysteries but this was great. The first 70 or so pages are a little slow, while the story is being built up but once you have that background information and the real story begins, it is a page turner. I couldn’t put it down, I also wanted to read it before the book club because I hate spoilers. 

As for the book club, it was a lot of fun. Of course we really only talked about the book a fraction of the time we were there but it was still nice to catch up and meet new people. I really enjoyed that I was able to gush and talk with the people who did get a chance to finish the book because so much happens and it’s hard to not have someone to talk to it about. I think next time, I’ll try to come with some more questions but I did think that we had a great start and wonderful conversation. It’s interesting to see how other people interpreted the characters and the plot. And even though the movie is never as good as the book, I do want to see it when it comes out this year. David Fincher has already said that the movie will differ from the book and based on the way it’s laid out, I don’t see how that wouldn’t be possible.

Next month’s book is “Orange is the New Black” – I watched the show on Netflix, I’m interested to see how the story is laid out in the book.

Have you read ‘Gone Girl’? What did you think? What books are you reading now that should be added to our list?

February 21-23: what to do/see/eat/drink this weekend in toronto

It’s Friday! Of a short week, how fantastic. It’s been “warmer” the past few days which just gives us hope that spring is coming, it didn’t forget about us. Won’t this summer just seem so much exciting because of the winter we’ve had? There’s so much going on in the city this weekend, here’s a few ideas.

Do: Love Vs. Smut (5): An Evening of Storytelling is tonight at Handlebar in Kensington Market. In this show presented by Pressgang Theatre, performers will recount dating experiences and romantic encounters, the best and the worst of them. It is a pay-what-you-can show, with a suggested donation of $10, formal dress code is encouraged.

See: The Reel Artist Film Festival is hapenning all weekend at the TIFF Lightbox. This festival features documentaries about visual art and arts. There will be a mix of feature-length and short films about challenges raised by artists. Tickets are $12 and $8 for students and seniors.

Eat: Starting at noon today, the Happy Hooker on Dundas (west of Bathurst) will be serving up fish and chips for $2! I haven’t had the chance to try them before but the pictures on their instagram look absolutely delicious, I wish I worked closer to them or I know what I’d be having for lunch while watch the game.

Drink: Toronto will soon have another brewery, this one in the ‘east’ end. Left Field Brewery is holding an open house this Saturday from 2-8pm to show their brewery pre-construction. You’ll be able to taste the beer and meet the owners. The brewery is pre-construction so it will be cash only but beer will be $5 and there will be pizza and snacks available to purchase, as well as Left Field Brewery products. Should be a fun day, welcoming them to their new neighbourhood. 

Whatever you do this weekend, I hope it’s a great one. I really enjoy the idea of a Friday song, so I’m going to keep it going. Thanks Love Toronto for reminding me of this song on their #TBT post yesterday – Let’s Ride!

Go Canada Go!

thirsty thursday: moxie’s drink special

I love a place with drink specials, I particularly love a place that has daily drink specials – as is the case with Moxie’s. Moxie’s has a variety of drink specials throughout the week (even on weekends) and on Thursday nights is Shock Top for $4.99 and 2oz martinis for $6.99.

I’m sure once the summer comes around, I’ll feature Shock Top, I love that patio beer, but for now, it’s a white beer similar to a Ricards White. Their site doesn’t include a list of their martinis but if my memory serves me correctly, they have a variety of martinis including the classic and others that are sweeter cocktail. Although wine is on special on Tuesdays, with beer and cocktails on special, you can likely please everyone. So, if you’re looking for a place to celebrate Canada’s triumphant win this afternoon, try the drink specials at Moxie’s.

Happy Thursday and Go Canada Go!

getting a mortgage?

I’m quickly approaching the two year anniversary in my condo. Please don’t ask me where the time has gone because as usual, I have no idea. When I originally set out to buy my place, I was looking at pre-builds, I was living at home with no immediate need to move so I thought that was the way to go. Not really sure how the path went because it all went so quickly but soon as I was looking at existing condos. I think the thought of having to wait a couple of years, if it was done on time, and having to have someone else hold my money didn’t make sense for me so I bought a tiny little condo and haven’t looked back.

I know when I bought my place, the mortgage was one of the many confuses processes involved with buying a home. Recently I connected with Myhang Gibson on twitter, a mortgage agent and asked her if she would answer a few questions I thought most people purchasing their first home would have.

I’d like to thank (and apologize to) Myhang, not only did she get this information back to me so quickly, but she was patient while I had issue with the blog but now I can put it up!


What is the role of a mortgage agent?

An independent mortgage agent offers you more choices. When you deal directly with a bank, they typically have 4 or 5 mortgage products that they try to fit to you. Reputable independent mortgage agents shop all the various lenders and have one goal, and that is to get you the best mortgage possible. They provide advice and guidance by evaluating options best suited for each client’s individual lifestyle and financial situation. They explain the benefits of shorter or longer mortgage terms, the latest programs available, which mortgage products they believe will most likely meet the client’s needs the best, and to reviews all of the other costs involved with purchasing a home.

What is pre-approval?

When you are looking for a new home, it is the verification done beforehand so that the dollar figure you are going shopping with is actually what you can spend. This planning step is important because it allows you to know for certain what you can afford based on lender and insurer criteria, and what your payments on a specific mortgage will be. A pre-approval can lock-in an interest rate for you for anywhere from 60 – 120 days while you shop for your perfect home. By locking in an interest rate, you are guaranteed to get a mortgage for at least that rate or better. If interest rates drop, your locked-in rate will drop as well. However, if the interest rates go up, your locked-in interest rate will not, ensuring you get the best rate throughout the mortgage pre-approval process. A pre-approval will not only give you the confidence of knowing that financing is available, but it can also put you in a very positive negotiation position against other home buyers who aren’t pre-approved.

 How does my credit history affect my mortgage?

Credit history is very important for a mortgage because lenders view past payment history as future payment habits. You need to be able to prove that you pay your bills on time. The longer credit history you have, the better.. so start building credit early. Having a low credit rating poses risks to the Lender, which may result in a decline for a mortgage approval.. or depending on your credit rating, you may still qualify for a mortgage but not at best rates. Even missing one bill payment can have a devastating effect on your credit rating, so even if you cannot make the full payment.. you need to make at least the minimum payment to maintain a good credit rating.

What are the benefits to pre-payment or biweekly mortgage payments?

By increasing your payment frequency, you will be able pay down your mortgage quicker but there is an important distinction: If you change to bi-weekly accelerated payments, then you will pay off your mortgage 3 to 4 years faster. If you change to bi-weekly regular payments, it will not pay your mortgage off any faster. Here is the difference. Let’s assume that your mortgage payment is $1000 a month with a total annual payment of $12,000. If you switch to bi-weekly regular payments, then your payments would be $462 bi-weekly. (That is $1000 times 12 months divided by 26 weeks.) You will not pay your mortgage off faster by doing this. Instead, if you switch to bi-weekly accelerated payments, then your payments would be $500 bi-weekly. (That is $1000 times 13 months divided by 26 weeks). This means that you pay one extra monthly payment per year. This will help you pay off your mortgage faster.

What is the difference between fixed and variable rates? What are the pros and cons to either?

A fixed rate is a rate that remains the same throughout the term of the mortgage. A Variable rate fluctuates with the prime rate, which is set by the bank of Canada and can change throughout the term of the mortgage.

Fixed Rate Mortgage:                     

Pros – As the rate is set for a specific length of term, the borrower’s payments do not fluctuate and is ideal for borrowers who want a fixed payment for their overall budgeting. The borrower will not have to be concerned about rate or payment increases during the term. Very good prepayment options are available allowing the borrower to pay off the mortgage faster.

Cons – As the rate is fixed, the borrower does not have the flexibility to take advantage of possible rate declines during the term. Discharge penalties fees are usually higher than a variable rate mortgage.

Variable Rate Mortgage:

Pros – Variable rate mortgages are based on a lender’s specific rate formula, for a specified term. Borrowers who are comfortable with payment and rate fluctuations are good candidates for variable rate products. In a “downward” rate market, the borrower will take advantage of paying less interest during the term. Discharge penalties can be lower and more flexible than fixed rate mortgages. If a line of credit product is chosen, you have the option of paying off or reusing the approved amount of the line of credit without re-qualifying.

Cons – As the rate is not “fixed”, payments will fluctuate with market conditions, and in an increasing rate market, the borrower’s payments could possibly increase to a level they may not be comfortable with. Increasing your required payment at the beginning of the term to allow for possible rate increases not only assists in budgeting, but also helps to alleviate payment increases if rates do go up;  and you can pay off your mortgage faster, as more principal is applied due to the increased payment over and above the required amount.

In Canada, mortgage brokers are paid directly by the lender. Except for some cases where challenging specialty loans are required, there is no cost to the client. If you should happen to be in a unique circumstance, any fee would be disclosed and discussed before any work is started.

Myhang Gibson is an accredited mortgage professional with Neighbourhood Dominion Lending Centres. Her focus is to help clients build financial wealth strategies to enhance their lifestyle. Assisting them through the process of home buying, refinancing, and accessing home equity, she has earned an outstanding reputation for providing personalized service excellence taking the time to understand what matters most to the client throughout the mortgage process.

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Thanks again to Myhang for answering these questions. What parts of home-buying/home-ownership confused (or still confuse) you?

February 14-16: what to do/see/eat/drink in toronto this weekend

Well what a day! It’s Valentine’s Day, it’s Friday, it’s the beginning of a long weekend, and for me – it’s Justin Timberlake day. I’ll try not to rub in it too much, but I am so excited. I have to say this is the best Valentine’s Day ever. Here’s some ideas for what’s going on in the city this weekend if you haven’t already made Family Day weekend plans.

Do: This Sunday is Seinfeld Trivia once again at Kitch near Dufferin and Dupont. I have mentioned this trivia night before but I thought it would be worth mentioning this weekend because Monday is a holiday, so you can have as much Hennigans as you’d like and not worry about getting up early Monday morning. Trivia starts at 8pm, best to arrive a bit early to grab a spot.

See: Tonight and tomorrow night at 8pm, the Untitled Feminist Show will be taking place at the World Stage at the Habourfront Centre. This show by Young Jean Lee is an almost silent play about gender and identity. Tickets are $39, this is an adult show, there is full nudity throughout the play.

Eat: The Drake Hotel is celebrating their 10th anniversary this month and have a ton of activities coming up. This Monday, they’re hosting a pancake breakfast with proceeds from the event benefiting the Parkdale Community Food Bank. The suggested donation is $10 per family, great way to start your day off.

Drink: If all you want to do is dance (with a drink in your hand), whether you care that it’s Valentine’s Day or not, Clintons on Bloor has you covered. Tonight they’re hosting F*CK IT: Valentine’s Day Edition – their Friday night parties are a lot of fun as they play the old school jams you know and love. Party starts at 10pm and cover is $5.

I was tempted to put “Friday” here, as it is a classic celebrate the weekend but this seems more appropriate. I <3 JT. Dancing at your desk is not only permitted but encouraged.


Happy Valentine’s Day!

thirsty thursday: cibo wine bar

This week’s Thirsty Thursday will be another special, because, why not? Drink specials for a Thursday are just as important as drinks (to me at least, I love a great deal). The week is almost done, it’s Valentine’s Day eve so what better excuse to have wine?

Cibo Wine Bar offers half off glasses of wine and bottles that are offered by the glass. I was there a couple of weeks ago and got my fill of italian food and wine and it was so much fun. We had the Sauvignon Blanc from Yealands Estate, a New Zealand wine. It was a light wine that paired nicely with my rose ravioli. Cibo Wine Bar is the sister restaurant on King W to the Ciao Wine Bar in Yorkville. If you haven’t already made plans for tonight, consider enjoying delicious food and nice wine at Cibo.

thirsty thursday: unibroue

This week’s Thirsty Thursday is brought to you by jamieleighTO, she recently ran a contest on her blog which I was lucky enough to win. With my $50 at Fionn MacCools tonight, my friend and I caught up over apps and beverages.

I tried Unibroue this evening. This blonde brew is similar to a shocktop or a ricards white. This beer was a little hoppier than my usually blonde beers but I still enjoyed it. This brew had a bit more of a bite than most regular white beer. This Quebec beer, brought to you by the makers of Blanche de Chambly is a nice option if you’re looking for a stronger, white beer. The food was also awesome, they have a special menu on until St. Patricks Day!

Happy Thursday!