Purchasing a Condominium

Purchasing a Condo

Purchasing a Condominium

So you have decided to purchase a condo. Whether you are upgrading from a rented apartment or downsizing from a house there are w few things to consider before you sign the papers.

1) Do your research
Find out if there have been any special assesments in the last few years. If there is something that needs to be fixed or upgraded in the building that affects all the residents then the Condo board will issue a special assessment. This means the cost of repairs will be split between all the residents, and can be very costly. To find out if there have been any recent cash calls review the minutes from the meetings.  You’re real estate professional should be offering you guidance and recommending having a professional document review service going over your documents with you.
2) Inspect the entire facility
Don’t just look at the unit you are interested in. Check out the outside of the building and the common areas. Check for any damage (cracks, water damage, rust, mold etc) that could be indicators of larger problems. If these areas are neglected either the board doesn’t have the funds to fix them or they don’t care to. Either way, be wary.  Some home inspectors will now only inspect the physical unit and not the common areas.  Your real estate professional should be providing you contact information for inspectors that will inspect all of the areas.  Many of the common area infrastructure expenses can be estimated from reading the reserve fund study of the condominium corporation.
3) Be clear on all policies
Do you have pets? Or children? You want to make sure they are welcome in the building.  Many condos have restrictions. Some only allow residents who are over 18, and sometimes pets are banned or there is a maximum weight for your pet or a maximum number of pets you can have. You should also be clear about any other restrictions. You can review the rules in the condominium corporation bylaws.
4) Talk to your real estate professional.
Your real estate agent will be able to help you with any general condo questions, and will likely be able to answer questions specific to the building.
Hosting a block Party

Settling in to your new Community


Hosting a block Party
Your new home has been purchased, the keys are in your hand and you have started to unpack. Now it is time to meet your neighbours and get involved in your community. Here are some handy tips to get you started.
1) Check out the community centre 
Especially if you want you and your family to get to know other families in the neighbourhood then check out the local community centre. If you have kids consider signing them up for a class or a sports team so they can meet the other kids in their neighbourhood and form new friendships.
2) Host a block party 
One thing that always brings people together is food! If space allows, set up the barbecue, buy some hot dogs/hamburgers/veggie burgers etc and print off some invitations. Slip these in your neighbours mailboxes. In order to cut down on your costs and ensure there is enough food for everyone who attends consider hosting your block party as a potluck.
3) Get involved!
Is the local soccer team looking for a new coach? Do you think kids in the neighbourhoods would benefit from an art class? Talk to the staff at the community centre and see about getting involved.
4) Take a class or join a club
Consider signing up for a class or joining a club that matches your interests. Especially if you are in a new city where you don’t know anyone this is a great way to meet people and make new friends.
5) Attend a local fair or event
This is a great way to meet people who share your interests. Calgary has lots of events such as the Calgary Children’s Festival, Folk Fest, the Sled Island Music Festival, the Calgary Stampede and Adult’s Only Night at Telus Spark. For a list of local events and activities try websites like http://www.todocanada.ca/things-to-do-calgary-this-weekend/

Fun and Tasty School Lunches 

Healthy School Lunches

Healthy School Lunches

It can be hard to break from the formula of sandwich, fruit, juice box, treat that seems to be king of the bagged lunch. Keep things fun and interesting with these healthy kid-pleasing lunches

1) Healthy Lunchables
Create your own cheese-meat-cracker lunches. Pair slices of garlic sausage with cheddar cheese and ritz crackers. For a vegetarian option, swap the garlic sausage for thinly sliced apple.
2) Hummus and Veggies
It is easy to sneak in veggies when the are paired with a delicious dip. Pack fresh, raw veggies such as carrot sticks, celery sticks, cherry tomatoes, broccoli or cauliflower with hummus.
3) Chicken and Veggie Pita-wich
Give your tired old sandwich some wow factor! Slice open a piece of pita bread to create two “pockets” and spread hummus inside. Stuff with fresh spinach, shredded roast chicken and some grated cheddar cheese.
4) Mozzarella and Veggie Sandwich
A delicious meatless option, this sandwich is made with pesto, green peppers, avocado and (you guessed it) mozzarella cheese. Toast before you pack to melt the cheese, but make sure you let it cool before you pack it to avoid making the bread soggy
5) Hearty Lunchtime Salad
Spinach is a healthy and hearty base for any salad. Mix fresh strawberries or dried cranberries with some goat cheese, almonds and spinach for an easy and delicious salad. Need some extra protein? Top it off with some shredded roast chicken. Mix a simple dressing by adding olive oil to balsamic vinegar. Be sure to pack the dressing separately so the spinach doesn’t get soggy, and always use a leak proof container!
Preparing your home for sale.

A Quick Guide to Prepping Your Home for Sale 

Preparing your home for sale.

So you have decided to sell your home and you are prepping for your home to go on the market. Here are some handy tips to help entice potential buyers.

1) Half empty closets 
The point of an open house is to show off your home’s assets and convince potential buyers to become definite buyers. To show your home in its best light avoid any clutter, especially in places people expect it like storage rooms and closets. By keeping these areas tidy (an ideally almost empty) you make the space seem bigger and more enticing.
2) Hide your pets 
Not everyone loves animals. To avoid putting off potential buyers ( and reduce clutter) put away any pet related items, especially things like pet food and litter boxes, which smell. Arrange for a pet sitter or animal play date for the day, hide Fluffy’s litter box and Fido’s ratty tennis ball and be sure to vacuum up any pet hair!
3) Don’t overdue the upgrades 
Remember, you are planning on leaving and you don’t really know what the next family to live in this home is like yet. So while you may want the marble countertops they may not. Doing some touch ups is fine, but don’t pour money in unnecessarily. You may not get a good return on the investment, and the new home owners may redo your renos anyways.  A general rule of thumb is you will receive most of your investment back on Kitchens and bathrooms.  While the other upgrades may not result in a positive net return on your investment, they will enhance the saleability of your property.
4) Make it neutral
When potential buyers go to an open house they are picturing what it would be like if they lived there instead of you. To help them get into this mind set make your house as neutral as possible. Hide any family photos, take down the mechanical singing fish from the wall and (as mentioned before) hide any evidence of pets. This also helps reduce clutter and make them space feel more spacious.
5) Don’t forget the kitchen!
People spend a lot of time in their kitchens, so make sure yours is up to snuff!  Dated or unattractive kitchen can drastically reduce the price point of your home. Invest in a coat of fresh paint and make sure your cupboards, light fixtures and counter tops don’t look dated.
6) Always be ready for a surprise showing
You never know when a potential buyer may ask to see your home. To avoid a last minute panic keep your home in “open house standby mode”. Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink, dirty laundry on the floor or let the bathrooms and kitchen get dirty. Do a quick clean each day in the off chance your realtor calls and asks to show your home on short notice.
Painting Bathroom

Remodelling your Bathroom

Painting Bathroom

Whether you are fixing up your home before it goes on the market or making your new home your own you don’t want to forget about the bathroom. Rarely thought about, this often used space is an important one. Here are some important tips for when you choose to remodel
1) Choose appropriate materials 
The bathroom gets a lot of use, and as such the surfaces need to be durable. Porcelain is always a safe bet, and can be found in a variety of colours and textures to suit your style.
2) Choose appropriate colours and lighting 
Bathrooms are often small, so you will want to avoid anything that makes them seem cramped. Choosing bright or light colours will help to make the space feel bigger. If you have your heart set on dark, bold colours you can still incorporate them by doing things like tiling the floor or backsplash in that colour, choosing it as your shower curtain or painting a feature wall. For a feature wall, pick one with a window or the shower so it doesn’t feel overpowering.
3) Tub, Shower or Both?
You want to create a space that you will actually use. If you aren’t really going to use the tub you may consider ditching it in favour of a more spacious shower. Then again, if you have a dog or small children the bathtub may be essential. Base your choice on what you will actually use. If you are looking to sell consider a bathtub/shower combo (room permitting) since you want to appeal to as many people as possible.
4) Lighting
You want the room to be well lit, using both natural lighting sources and artificial ones. Natural light from a discrete window can make the lighting less harsh. Opt for a frosted window, or a window with a curtain light enough to allow light in while still maintaining privacy.

Simple and Healthy On-the-Go Breakfasts 

Breakfast Plate

Busy mornings can be the enemy of healthy eating and frugal budgets. Keep yourself on track, and start the day right, with these delicious make ahead breakfasts.
1) Oatmeal
Oatmeal is a simple and delicious way to start the day. Pack dry oatmeal in one container and any toppings (fresh fruit, yogurt, brown sugar and cinnamon etc) in a second container. When you get to the office just boil some water in the kettle, add it to the oatmeal and add your toppings.
2) Fruit and Yogurt Parfait
Excellent for eating at your desk, this breakfast is simple and healthy. Pack crunchy granola (such as Honey Bunches of Oats) in one container, then mix your favourite flavour of Greek style yogurt with some fresh, seasonal fruit such as dice apple, banana slices or berries. Combine when you are ready to eat, and then enjoy. Mixing the granola and yogurt too far ages of time makes the granola soggy.
3) Hearty Breakfast Bagel
For the breakfast sandwich crowed: create your own, healthy alternative! Top a plain or savoury bagel with sliced tomato, a piece of cheddar cheese and some fresh spinach and avocado. If you are planning to eat it at work keep the bagel separate until you are ready to eat to avoid making the bagel soggy
4) Scrambled Egg Pita
A healthy alternative to the drive though’ breakfast sandwich. Scramble some eggs the night before, adding cheddar cheese and green onions and desired. In a separate container pack some sliced or diced fresh tomato with sea salt and some fresh spinach. Finally, pack a piece of pita bread, pre cut into two pieces. When you get to work microwave the eggs to reheat them, then spoon the eggs, spinach and tomatoes into the pita bread haves.
5) Bagel with cream cheese, tomato and spinach.

A delicious, healthy twist on a classic breakfast. Add fresh spinach, and a slice of fresh tomato to your bagel with cream cheese. For a little extra kick sprinkle some paprika on the cream cheese.

Baking soda and Vinegar Cleaners

Green and Budget Friendly Cleaning Tips


Baking soda and Vinegar Cleaners
Did you know that many ordinary items found in your pantry or fridge can also double as cleaning ingredients? To help keep your home spotless try these handy tips that are easy on the environment and your budget.
1) Use Vinegar as a mild disinfectant 
Add a half cup of vinegar to a litre of warm water for an easy and gentle cleaning solution. Works well on all wipeable surfaces.
2) Use vinegar as fabric softener 
Whether you want something gentler or just discovered you are out of fabric softener in the middle of doing laundry vinegar can help! Add half a cup to your washing machine for gentle softness without the strong scent. Simply pour in a top loader, or pour into the fabric softener compartment of a front loader.
3) Use lemon juice as bleach
Avoid the harshness of bleach by swapping it out for lemon juice. To keep your whites bright simply add lemon juice to your next load of whites. Simply pour in a top loader, or pour into the bleach compartment of a front loader.
4) Baking Soda Scrub
To tackle yellowing grout simply mix up a paste with baking soda. Add approximately 2 tablespoons of baking soda to a table spoon each of water and lemon juice. Using an old tooth brush you can now scrub away those ugly stains. For a more potent mix, substitute a cap full of bleach for the lemon juice.
5) Freshen stinky shoes with baking soda and your freezer 
Conquer stinky odour simply and effectively. Place your shoes in a sturdy ziplock bag or Tupperware container and place them in the freezer overnight. This will kill any bacteria that may be causing the odour. If the smell persists then liberally sprinkle the soles with baking soda and allow the shoes to stand for 24 hours. Use a cotton swab and rubbing alcohol to deodorize the sides of the shoes.

Delicious and Simple Weeknight Recipes

With school and extracurricular activities back in session it can be tempting to stop and grab fast food on the weeknights. Keep your family healthy while you keep your wallet happy with these delicious and simple weeknight recipes.
– Pasta with Tomatoes and Basil. 
For a simple and satisfying meal look no further than the produce section. Top cooked pasta with sliced fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, Parmesan and butter for a simple and tasty meal. Add grilled chicken if you desire.
– Beans on Toast. 
This classic English meal is delicious and simple. Heat canned beans and top with cheddar. Serve over buttered toast.
– Cheese and Charcuterie Plate
When in doubt, return to the basics. Roll deli meat and secure using tooth picks. Pair this with some cubes of cheese (such as Brie or Cheddar). Serve with raw veggies and dip or sliced apple.
– Delectable Spinach Salad
Spinach is a healthy and hearty base for any salad. Mix fresh strawberries or dried cranberries with some goat cheese, almonds and spinach for an easy and delicious salad. Mix a simple dressing by adding olive oil to balsamic vinegar.
– Avocado BLT.
Avocado is an excellent way to ass healthy fats to your diet, and add a little something extra to an old classic. Build a sandwich out of toast and add fresh, sliced tomatoes topped with a dash of sea salt, lettuce and bacon. Add a slice of fresh avocado or spread mashed avocado on the toast before assembling.
– Easy and Healthy Tacos
Brown some ground beef with cumin, paprika and chilli powder. Serve in soft or hard taco shells with grated cheddar cheese, shredded romaine lettuce, black olives, guacamole, sour cream and either fresh diced tomatoes or chunky salsa. Make your own guacamole by mashing 3 avocados with 1 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 a cup of diced onion, 3 tablespoons of chopped, fresh cilantro, and 1 teaspoon of minced garlic. Juice 1 lime into the mix and mash. Can be served chunky or smooth.
Turn your rice into a meal by replacing the water with chicken stock and adding diced onion and frozen peas while you cook it. Serve with chicken or alone.
Make up Tips

Quick and Easy Makeup Tips to Help You Get the Perfect Look

Make up TipsMakeup. Whether it is an every day staple or something you only wear for special occasions it can be tricky to get it done perfectly. Here are a few helpful tips to help you get the look you want.

-Need a pop of colour? Add some colour while keeping it subtle by using a dark but colourful eye liner like dark green, dark blue, or dark purple. Pair with neutral eye shadows like cream, beige and soft browns for a subtle daytime look and blend the eye shadow over top of the eye liner.
– The key to makeup is balance. Highlight your eyes or your lips, not both. If you want to look dramatic but not clownish go for either a bold red or berry coloured lipstick with subtle, light eye shadow or a dramatic dark shadow with pale or neutral lips.
– If your makeup looks too harsh overall try softening your eye liner by blending with a blending stick. This makes the look less harsh while helping your eye lashes look really thick by filling in the gaps at the base of the hairs.
– To keep you lipstick from wearing off cover your lips with a tissue after you blot and then brush powder over them through the tissue.
– Lips looking too thin? To make your lips look fuller dab a little bit of lip gloss in the centre of your lower lip and keep the rest of your lipstick matte.
– Eye shadow not as bright or subtle as you would like? Try using white or cream eye shadow with it. Put the white shadow on under the coloured one to make your colours brighter, or put a thin coat of white or cream over the colour to soften it.
– For a really dramatic colour, use a thick eyeliner pencil instead of eye shadow. Simply apply like you would a normal eye liner and then blend. This technique is particularly useful for metallics.
– Nail breaking or splitting? You can reduce the damage and keep your nail intact using a tea bag! First, remove any polish on the nail. Next, cut open your tea bag and dump put the tea leaves, saving the mesh bag. Cut a small piece of the bag and affix it your entire nail using clear nail polish. You may want to follow this with a coat of coloured polish to hide the tea bag.
Canadian Money

Ways to save on your bills

Canadian Money

Saving Money

No one likes paying bills, especially in these tough economic times. However, there are a variety of ways you can help reduce the size of your monthly bills and spend your money smarter.

1) Reduce water consumption

This can be done in a variety of ways. Small changes to your water consumption rituals can make a huge difference. You can take shorter showers. You can also turn off the water when you are not using it, both while brushing your teeth and doing the dishes. Scrape your plates well, and only run your dishwasher when it is full. You may also consider investing in a rain barrel, which will cut down on your plant watering costs.

2) Reduce your electricity consumption.

Do you always turn off the lights when you leave the room? Lighting and unoccupied room wastes electricity and takes its toll on the lifespan of your light bulbs. You can also consider switching to energy efficient bulbs, and try taking advantage of natural light sources during the day.

Another huge energy user is the air conditioner. Instead of running it, try spending more time in the basement, which will stay cool all on its own.

3) Streamline services

How often do you watch cable? If you hardly use it, why keep it? Services like Netflix can fulfill your tv and movie cravings, and let you cut down your bills by getting rid of cable. Another place you may be paying for something you never use is your landline. Most people have cellphones, and hardly use the Josie phone anymore. Cutting the cord on your home phone can save you money.

4) Borrow, don’t buy

Did you know the Calgary Public Library doesn’t charge membership fees? They also offer a wide variety of books, films and e books for borrowing. If you are the type of person who only reads a book once, then why pay to buy it when you can borrow it for free?

5) Cook smarter

Instead of going out for dinner, or lunch with your office buddies, cook a big batch of food for dinner. Cooking at home is significantly cheaper than eating out, and big batches can do double duties as lunch the next day.