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Creating a relaxing bedroom

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Torontonians work hard. So, at the end of the day they want to come home to a relaxing place to escape. There are several ways to create a tranquil and inviting bedroom. From using diffusers to choosing the right colours, creating an oasis that speaks to you is easier than you might think. Let’s take a look at some of the simplest ways to make your bedroom your personal sanctuary. 

Scent

A great way to diffuse the tension of any space is to use proper scents. For millennia essential oils have been used to promote sleep and well-being. Some of the top scents to achieve these goals include:

  • Lavender
  • Rose
  • Chamomile
  • Geranium
  • Jasmin
  • Bergamot

Whether you use a diffuser, a scented candle or incense sticks, adding the right fragrance to the air in your room can create an instant calm to help you unwind. 

Colours

Colours have a very strong influence on our moods and behavior. The right colour can ease your worry while the wrong colour will keep you up at night stressing over everything you might have done differently during the day. Among the top colours that soothe and calm are;

  • Blue
  • Green
  • Light pink
  • White
  • Beige

In this instance it’s best to leave the reds, purples, blacks and browns for your entertaining areas as these bold and vibrant colours are definitely not the best for encouraging sleep. 

Declutter

One of the best ways to make any room – but especially your bedroom, more relaxing is to keep it clean and tidy with no clutter. Clutter tends to stress a person’s mind, which is the opposite of what you want in your bedroom. Have enough storage space to file your things away so there is no reason for things to pile up. 

Keep bed linen fresh

Washing your sheets regularly is very important. Not only is it hygienic, but the freshness of the sheets will also help you sleep better. Using a detergent with a smell you like will make it even better. 

Lighting

Forget the overhead lights. To create a serene ambiance opt, instead for indirect or mood lighting. This is easily done with a couple of floor or table lamps or even LED lights placed under a shelf or your bed. 

Creating a tranquil retreat in your primary bedroom is not difficult – but can mean the difference between 40 winks and a night of tossing and turning.

Winter ready home

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Caring for your Toronto home is a constant cycle. Whether you are checking to make sure everything is working properly, maintaining things or cleaning, these routine tasks can be dull but are absolutely necessary. In fact, it’s when you neglect certain tasks for a few years that cracks begin to show, leaks spring up and grass begins to grow where it shouldn’t. 

More than just cleaning

Among the other items that need to be done every year, twice a year every home should be deep-cleaned. In the spring, you need to get rid of the dust that collects over the winter and in the fall, you need to sweep away the dust brought in from the summer! However, along with the deep clean, you should also take the time to prepare your home for the coming cold. We’ve compiled a handy list of items that should be on your checklist every fall. 

Inside

  • Wash windows
  • Wash down walls
  • Dust light fixtures
  • Dust/wash window treatments 
  • Vacuum and clean upholstery
  • Deep clean carpeting
  • Vacuum refrigerator condenser coil
  • Declutter and clean garage and/or attic
  • Wash comforters and pillows

Inside Tips!

Vertical blinds can be especially challenging to clean. A good rule of thumb for getting them spotless is to first vacuum the loose dust, then soak them in soapy water to loosen and remove the caked in dust. 

Swiffers or similar mops/brooms work particularly well when it comes to cleaning walls and ceilings. They have a longer reach, versatile mop heads and can be maneuvered easily. 

If you don’t have a deep cleaner, you can rent one inexpensively for a day at most grocery stores. 

Outside

  • Clean out gutters
  • Rake and compost leaves
  • Prep garden for winter
  • Check weather stripping around doors and windows
  • Clean and store patio furniture
  • Drain and store hoses
  • Clean, drain and close pool (if necessary)
  • Clean and store barbeque

Outside tips!

Raked leaves make excellent cover for garden beds as the cover they produce when composting will help fertilize soil.

Adding mesh gutter covers will prevent leaves from falling into your gutters and clogging them up. 

The list might seem long, but it requires just a few dedicated hours that can be spread over a few weekends to see all the tasks do

Unexpected office

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Toronto homeowners who work from home and don’t have access to a dedicated office space can create an unexpected office. Even if you don’t have a spare room there are ways of setting yourself up properly and without necessarily needing a ton of space. We’ve compiled a list of easy ways to set yourself up comfortably. 

Extra closet 

One of the cleverest and sneakiest ways of setting up an office is in an unused or underused closet. There are a number of ways to get this done, however, installing proper shelving and lighting are key to functionality while paint, wallpaper and accessories will add the sparkle needed to make it conducive to working. If you want to further extend your workspace you could remove the closet door, however, keeping it on means being able to close your office off after hours. 

Staircase landing

If you have space at the top of your staircase landing, it might be enough to set up a desk and some shelves. Most landings are brightly lit and open – two elements that contribute to a great work environment. All you need are furnishings that are small enough to fit into your space and a creative way of arranging them. Installing an office at the top of your stairs will provide 

Under a staircase

There is usually plenty of dead space under a staircase. Instead, turn this overlooked area into a cozy home office. This is an easy DIY or can be done professionally. Simple wall shelving and some good work lighting along with a slimline desk are all that such a space really needs. 

Hallway stealth office

If you really don’t have space, you can always set up a stealth office in your hallway. This would require purchasing a wall cabinet that converts into a desk for when you are working and looks like a regular cabinet for when you are not. They are handy desks in a pinch and can definitely be set-up for a more permanent solution if you live in a small apartment or condo. 

Maintaining your lawn through August

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Toronto homeowners are likely now seeing the results of the efforts they made in the spring to get their lawn summer-ready. However, far from resting on their laurels, August is a crucial time for lawn care if you want your sod staying healthy and looking its best to the end of the growing season. 

The summer’s high heat and full-on sun can take a toll on grass and earth so there are few things you should do to keep both in tip-top shape. 

Get rid of thatch

What is thatch? According to the University of Massachusetts it is a, “tightly intermingled layer of living and dead stems, leaves, and roots which accumulates between the layer of actively growing grass and the soil underneath”. To see if you have thatch, cut a small plug of earth from your lawn and measure the thickness of the thatch layer. If it is more than ¾” thick, then you have thatch. Getting rid of thatch is done mechanically using a rake. 

Let your grass grow!

As silly as that statement sounds, not cutting your grass too short in August will actually help it remain healthy. And, when you do cut your grass make sure to set your mower blades higher so that your grass remains strong. 

Seed

Late summer is the ideal time to seed your lawn. It will ensure that the seed takes hold in the fall so that by the time the new growing season rolls around you have a healthy head start.  

Fertilizer

Another crucial step in your Toronto lawn care routine for August is the application of fertilizer. Levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium tend to drop during the summer, so adding a good fertilizer helps to rebalance the health of your lawn. Another reason to fertilize your lawn in August is so that the nutrients are already there in spring. 

By spending a bit of time on lawn care in August, you will set the stage for a healthy and strong grass for the rest of the year and into the early next early growing season.

Navigating higher mortgage interest rates 

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The Toronto real estate market is soon going to feel the real impact of the recent Bank of Canada interest rate hikes. On July 13, the BOC raised interest rates by 100 basis points to 2.5%. The hike was even higher than what experts were anticipating with the increase immediately reflected in mortgage interest rates across the country. 

Lock in variable rate mortgages

Toronto homeowners who have a variable rate mortgage should have already locked in their rate. But, if you haven’t yet, then now is definitely the time as there is another rate hike anticipated in September. And, should inflation continue to rise, then more hikes could be in the pipeline. Locking into a rate that you can afford now, is better than hoping that the rates will stabilize and come down soon. 

What if your mortgage is only set to renew next year?

Chances are interest rates will remain high for the next few years. If you foresee renewing your mortgage at a high interest rate, your best strategy is to start paying down as much of your mortgage as you can right now. Even if that means lowering the amount you are saving for retirement for a few years. Paying down as much as you can so that when you renew, you do so with a lower principal amount will help ease the sting of a higher interest rate. 

You need to renew but can’t afford the new interest rate at your current amortization?

If your mortgage is up for renewal and you simply cannot afford the payments based on the new interest rates and your current amortization, you can always opt to increase the amortization period. In Canada you can amortize your mortgage over 25 years. 

Mortgage still too high?

If you cannot afford your mortgage at a new, higher interest rate and you have the room (and temperament), consider renting out a room in your home or a portion of your home to help cover the costs. If you have friends or family members who are willing to let you move in with them short term, you can even consider renting out your whole house to cover your mortgage until you are able to afford the payments again. 

Preparing for a rate hike and handling a rate hike is not fun or easy – but it can be done. With a little discipline and proper planning you can structure your finances so that you can keep your home.

Small gardens  

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It’s summer time in Toronto! And, whether you live in a grand estate with sprawling grounds or your patch of heaven is an upper floor condo with a small terrace, having an outdoor space can contribute plenty to your summertime enjoyment. Gussying-up what you’ve got to maximize your pleasure is easy and doesn’t have to cost a lot of money.

Plan it out

The first thing about creating a small garden is to plan your space properly. Note the position of the sun throughout the day and then layout our plan accordingly. Ideally provide adequate shade so you can sit outside without frying in the heat. Also, make sure the plants you choose are suited for the area of the garden you have planned for them. Regardless of how big your space is, you can always create a mini-oasis by figuring out the best seating and planting areas. 

Pots and plants

If your space doesn’t allow for full-out planting of flowers and bushes because you have a small patio, terrace or balcony, you can still add colour and greenery by using potted plants. Potted plants are easy and versatile. Depending on how large the container and plant is, they can also be portable. And, the best part about a potted garden, is that a number of those same plants can be brought inside to overwinter – so you can be surrounded by greenery year-round. 

Versatile furniture

Another good way to maximize the space of your small Toronto garden is to invest in good furniture. There are pieces designed specifically for small spaces that serve double duty or that can fold for easy storage. For instance, table fire pits are super convenient as they work as a table that converts into a firepit at night. Folding chairs are another great option – after using you can fold them up and hang them on a wall or tuck away into a storage shed. Bench seating that runs along a wall is another great way of saving space. It provides seating while minimizing the footprint needed. Large padded cushions placed on a low, sturdy table can also make a great seat if you’re running low on place. 

If you are unsure on how best to plan your small Toronto garden, you can always look online. There are a number of excellent resources that will help you find the perfect plan for your little paradise.

Planting a pollinator garden at your Toronto home  

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Pollinators are the bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, beetles and flies, amongst a long list of other creatures, that help to pollinate the plants responsible for our food. From the coffee and tea that start off our days to the chocolate and tequila that enrich our days, we owe 75% of the food we eat to pollinators (https://ourworldindata.org/pollinator-dependence). 

Choosing the right plants

Creating a pollinator garden might seem easy enough but choosing the right plants is actually key. The plants you choose should be native to your area. Including plants that are great pollinators but not found in your area can actually do more harm than good. Non-native species can threaten native species. Non-native plants can also negatively impact the life-span of pollinators that depend on such plants for survival by providing nourishment for only part of that pollinator’s lifecycle. 

Avoid chemicals!

The next step to creating a great pollinator garden for your Toronto home is to forego the pesticides and espouse natural fertilizers. Be sure that any plants you buy at your garden centre haven’t been grown using pesticides or water soluble chemicals. These chemicals are very harmful to pollinators and can even be lethal. The worst part? These chemicals can remain in a treated plant for up to seven years. 

What’s in a good pollinator garden

Here’s what to include in your Toronto pollinator garden to create a paradise for your local bees and butterflies.

  • Make sure you have a diverse offering of native plants that produce pollen and nectar for adult pollinators.
  • Include plants that can support butterfly and moth larvae.
  • Have a readily available water supply and create nooks for nesting.

Best pollinator plants for Toronto

The Toronto Botanical Garden blog has put together a list (https://torontobotanicalgarden.ca/blog/plants-for-pollinators/)of native plants that will attract pollinators to your garden. Included are favorites such as Beebalm, Dogwood and Godenrod. 

If you have never created a garden before, it is best to consult with your local nursery to get the best advice on what works in your area. Doing our part to help keep our pollinators healthy will also give you a beautiful garden.

Toronto real estate cooling

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Toronto real estate has been a tear for two decades now. House prices have increased exponentially in that time and seller’s have reaped the benefits of those prices while buyer’s have had to hustle to find housing they could afford and that they liked. However, since the recent interest rate hikes introduced in April 2021, the Toronto housing market has cooled dramatically. 

Year-over-year sales down

Housing sales year-over-year were down a whopping 41.2% in April in the GTA and month-to-month they were down 27% – those are big percentages from a market that continued full-steam-ahead even during the pandemic. According to Douglas Porter of the Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA), this drop “suddenly getting into buyers’ market terrain.

Good news for buyers

While supply is still tight, this drop in sales means that buyers will have more time to consider their options and won’t be faced with the kind of bidding wars that saw homes selling for thousands over their asking price. 

Buyer’s remorse

What the drop in the market has meant is that greater numbers of buyers are now feeling remorse and looking for ways to get out of their purchase offer. Toronto real estate lawyers have seen an increase in the number of clients looking to either get out of a deal or to keep someone in a deal. With a drop in the market those who bought property on spec are worried that their investment will instead turn into a burden. 

Lower prices

Porter added that “decades of history show that the sales-to-new-listings ratio is an excellent leading indicator for average transaction prices,” which essentially means that lower prices are around the corner. Although no one expects the free fall of what happened in the US in 2008, a correction is definitely possible.

Successful container gardening: the right pot

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As a Toronto homeowner, if you really want the fun and flavor of growing your own vegetables but are limited on space, then container gardening is the way to go. Containers are easy and versatile. The best part? When it is time to close up the garden, all you need to do is empty out the soil, clean the container and put it away. 

To maximize the output of your container garden, it is necessary to have the right pot for the right plants. Containers come in different materials, sizes and shapes. Choosing the right sort for your project will determine the degree of its success. 

Ceramic pots

Ceramic pots are porous so they allow excellent movement of air around the roots of the plant. More air movement means healthier, hardier roots and more robust vegetable yields. However, ceramic pots also wick moisture out of the soil, so you have to water more frequently or only use them with plants that can handle drier soil. If you tend to be lax when it comes to watering, then it’s best to choose a different kind of pot. Ceramic pots are also rather heavy and when soil, water and a plant are added, become heavier still, making them harder to move around. 

Plastic pots

Plastic pots are usually inexpensive, light-weight and last a long time – unless kept outside in the elements. Plastic pots exposed to extreme cold and extreme heat will crack quicker over time.  Plastic pots tend to keep moisture in so people who have trouble with a watering schedule will do well with these pots – as will their plants that love moisture! Plastic is also easy to maintain and comes in many different colours to suit your design needs. The best part? Even large pots are not heavy making them easier to move when filled. 

Fabric pots

Some of the newest pots on the market marry the best features of the ceramic and plastic pots. Fabric planters are lightweight, easy-to-maintain and allow for terrific aeration of plant roots, which lead to healthier plants and better produce. Fabric pots also tend to last longer than plastic pots that are left outside – although fabric pots will lose their shape in time. Fabric pots have been growing in popularity in recent years due to their versatility, low cost and plant-friendliness. 

Once you have the right container for your Toronto garden, it is time to fill it with just the right mix of earth, mulch and plant food to give your plants the optimum boost needed to be healthy and to produce delicious veggies throughout the growing season.

Getting your garden ready

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Despite the recent late-winter storm, Toronto gardeners should be getting ready to don their galoshes and gloves to head out into their gardens to begin the yearly planting prep. Whether you prefer flowers to vegetables, getting your beds ready for planting is a crucial step that cannot be overlooked if you want a successful season. Below is a list of things to do to get the most out of your garden.

Clean up

As simple as this sounds, the first step to any good gardening experience is to clean up the debris left behind from the previous year so you can properly take stock of what needs to be done. This step includes pruning your hedges and bushes into the proper shapes, cutting back low hanging branches on trees and raking up leaves, pine cones, dried grasses, etc… 

Assessment

Next up is assessing your garden and what needs to be done. Are the perennials growing in the right place? Do some need to be transplanted elsewhere? Are some overgrown and need to be removed? Do you need to start another bed? Do you want to raise your vegetable bed? These are all questions that need to be answered before you can proceed with any plans. Taking careful stock of what you have in your garden and whether it is still working will help you to better plan what you plant and where you plant it. 

Soil prep

Over winter soil gets compacted. Before planting, turn the soil in your garden to loosen it. Now is also a good time to add whatever compounds your soil might be missing – whether it is fertilizer, calcium, mulch or just more earth. Preparing your soil will guarantee a successful and growing season. 

Check and clean your tools

Every good gardener will take care to clean and care for their tools properly. Dirty tools can spread any bacteria or fungus from the prior year to this year’s garden. Furthermore, any contaminant it might have picked up over the winter could still be attached to it, so giving them a good cleaning is the right way to start off any new season. 

Plan your plants!

Yes, you might already have plants growing in your garden, but unless you actively plan your garden every year, your perennials will take over. Unplanned gardens can definitely look great – as long as all of the plants are growing in the right place. If you have smaller plants at the back and taller plants in the front, the effect that could have been created will be lost. Instead, make sure that your plant sizes are appropriate next to each other and that smaller varietals are near the front of your beds. If you are unsure of how to go about planning your garden, there are several interesting websites that can guide you through this process. 

Planting

To plant successfully you must wait until the weather will no longer dip below freezing. Seedlings are delicate and need consistently mild weather to thrive. Don’t make the mistake of planting too early. Usually the rule-of-thumb for Toronto gardeners is to plant on Victoria Day weekend. The long weekend usually signals the start of the growing season – anything earlier and you run the risk of a late season frost that could harm your plants.