Category Archives: coolness

How I Stopped A Fist Fight Between Strangers

So I had a pretty interesting night last night.

I went back home to see my shrink who told me I should consider getting rid of the roommate and also said he supports my decision for something (details coming soon!) which is nice to hear.

On the way home I was on the subway, we were stopped at Christie station. Anyone hear about the delay there, around 10:30pm or so last night?

I was part of it.

While we were stopped there, a fist fight broke out between two guys. I didn’t see it start inside, but it moved to the platform. I  heard the yelling (and like all the other lemmings on the train) stepped out to see what was going on.

One guy had his fists up, and I think he may have been punched once already (couldn’t tell). The other guy was being held back by a nicely suited man who was trying to reason with them both.

I admire the suited man’s efforts, but things didn’t seem to be calming down all that much.

After I observed the situation, checked my surroundings and my clothing, I decided that I was probably one of the better qualified people to deal with this situation.

Here’s why:

  1. I am a sweet, soft-looking woman. Most guys do not want to hit a woman and (if the fight isn’t about a woman) will calm down if one intervenes
  2. It looked like they just needed to talk out their differences and to be acknowledged. I counsel a lot of people so I’m good at this sort of thing
  3. I’m nearing blackbelt status in kung fu. Not only is it my duty to help others, I also felt confident that I could use physical force if necessary. I have an iron core and feral eyes that make people think twice before taking me on (true story!)
  4. And no one else was really stepping up to help, either. Gawkers.

So I found my opening, and stepped in.

I handled the very upset, but more gentlemanly-looking of the two. He had dropped a book on the floor so I picked it up and walked right up to him.

“Is this your book?” I asked. I knew it was, but it was a non-threatening way to diffuse the situation.

He answered in the affirmative so I spoke with him some more, letting him rant to me about what the other dude was doing. He really just wanted to be heard and acknowledged, and not to lose face in the fight. With me intervening and taking his attention we accomplished all of that.

I touched his arm and asked him if he was ok, making sure to make eye contact. At that point he started to calm down and back away from the situation (suited man was handling the other guy). We agreed that a fight wasn’t worth it and he gave it up and walked away as calm as he could.

I then turned and engaged with the other guy. I didn’t really say much other than “it’s not worth it, man” to him and he also nodded. After a few more male posturing movements he simmered down as well.

The fight was over.

A TTC conductor finally came out and turned off the emergency alarm on the train (MAN! Those things are ANNOYING!!!) but I was just wondering where the authorities were before this??

And why did I, a seemingly-defenseless, tired, chubby woman have to break up the fight and calm people down while so many others stood around and watched. I know sometimes it’s best not to get involved, but this situation was manageable.

Soon after I was back on the train and headed home, feeling like a small-time hero. I felt so good that when a homeless(?) dude said he was hungry and asked for money, I bought him a dinner instead.

What a night, indeed.

NOTE: I don’t recommend that women or most people in general get involved in hostile situations such as the one described. There is always the chance for things to get worse and for yourself or others to become harmed. I used my judgment and my special skills to help with this particular case, but had it been different and more dangerous, I would have waited for the authorities.

It is good to help others, but you must go in knowing and accepting the risks.

Review: AirBnB.com – Travel Like A Human

Wow, it’s not often I will find a service or product that is so cool it will kick me out of a writing slump! I am so stoked to share this article with you guys and I’m not even getting compensated for it or anything!


As a blogger with a strong bent towards personal finance I am always looking for ways to either save money or make more of it! Luckily my roomie is on the same page. One day she told me about her friend who was renting out her apartment for a month through an interesting online service and she suggested we check it out and see if it was something we could use for our extra room. So I did.

AirBnB – Air Bed & Breakfast… Get it?

So what is AirBnB?

From their site:

Called the “Ebay for space” by Time Magazine, Airbnb is an online marketplace allowing anyone from private residents to commercial properties to rent out their extra space. The reputation-based site allows for user reviews, verification, and secure online transactions. Listings include vacation rentals, private rooms, entire apartments, bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels, castles, treehouses, and many other traditional and non-traditional accommodations.

In short, it’s a great way to rent out an extra room or space of yours in the short-term and make some cash!

So, how does it work?

If you’re a host like me, you take some nice photos of your place and write up a listing. It doesn’t cost anything to create a listing for yourself, though for each booking AirBnB takes a 3% service fee.

When someone wants to book with you they complete the booking process and you’re emailed and asked whether you would like to accept or not. If you accept, your contact details and exact location of your space are released to your guest, and you also receive their contact info. At that point you start talking to them about check-in times and whatever else you like.

If you are a guest, you do a search in the area you want and see the listings. You can send a quick email inquiry if you have a question, or you can book right away. You pay upfront to AirBnB who holds onto your payment. The money is sent to the host after the first day of your stay. This is in case you cancel or something happens. This is a great way to travel– you save a lot of money and learn about the local culture much more. Or you could, you know, rent a castle or something.

Ginger, what was your experience like?

Well, so far it’s been great! We are lucky that our apartment is in a desirable location, close to public transit, a clean & safe neighbourhood, etc. so we’ve had more booking requests than we can actually handle. I had to turn two people away last night, actually!

Since I’m an advertising person *wink wink* I wrote a really stellar ad. I think that that is one of the main reasons we’re getting so much interest. I included a lot of details and listed exactly what was included. I also posted nice, but realistic photos not only of the room, but the common spaces as well so that guests could get a feel for the apartment and us as hosts before they booked.

I know that this helped because I asked some of our guests this weekend why they chose our place over all the others out there. One reason was we have a slightly lower price, but the other was because we looked “friendly”, “normal” and “welcoming”. All good things to hear!

Good customer service is also important. We responded quickly and politely to all inquires and did a great hosting job when they got to the apartment as well.

My roommate and I compiled a list of local activities and sights for our first guests from Spain this weekend. They wanted to know more about the Toronto culture and do less of the touristy stuff. They were real travellers and wanted to go where the locals went!

This was very well-received so we’re actually going to step things up a notch and do up a beautiful digital booklet to send to our guests. It will include photos our friends have taken, the traditional tourist listings (CN Tower, ROM, etc.) as well as our “local” suggestions such as our favourite bars, restos and concert venues. My roommate is also very into the local hipster art scene so she can provide all kinds of party and gallery recos.

As we get more accustomed to being hosts, we have plans to kick things up a notch as well by offering breakfast, doing tours, etc. We really want to make a cool experience for our guests. Not only will this be kinda fun for peeps like us, but it will allow us to charge more per night and increase our profits!

A key point of the AirBnB system is the recommendations and reviews. After every booking both the host and guests review the stay. The more positive reviews you have, the better (and the more money you can charge!). You can also get friends to write recommendations about you personally; this also helps guests learn more about you and helps them make their decisions.

We are still waiting for our reviews from our 3 guests this weekend but I expect that they will be quite positive. I have also left them positive reviews. Our Spanish guests were even so sweet as to bring us a bottle of local Spanish wine to thank us! Awwww!

Additional Thoughts

I obviously think this is a really cool concept for both hosts and travellers. I like that I can make money off of my extra room and I will use this service the next time I travel.

It can be a little bit weird though. While my roommate and I enjoyed having our guests, it can be stressful having strangers in your home. We had to be there at specific times and it was mentally tiring; even with good guests.

You will always want to use your best judgment and be cautious when doing something like this. We locked away our expensive items and tried to find the balance between being at home enough, but also giving the guests their space and privacy. It is important to really think things through, establish rules and communicate those to your guests to avoid any problems.

Overall I would say that my first 2 bookings were a good experience. We will definitely be continuing as hosts and also refining our listing as well as house rules so that we’re not so frazzled the next time. I really think it is a learning experience!

If you have an adventurous personality and an extra room, I would recommend trying out AirBnB!

Have you ever traveled or hosted via a service such as AirBnB? I would love to hear your thoughts and stories in the comments!

How much is my purse worth?

This is an interesting little meme going around the internet right now, several bloggers that I read (FB, Asian Pear) have tallied up the approximate costs of everything they regularly carry in their purses.

It seems the average total of all items for most gals is around $300, but since my purse alone is $300 it got me wondering: just how much IS my bag carrying?

I’m about to find out. And also clean this sucker out, I have way too much stuff in here!

  • Purse – $300
  • iPod Touch – $250
  • Blackberry – $50 (it’s a hand-me-down)
  • Sunglasses – $500
  • Keys – $30
  • “Emergency” makeup kit – $40
  • Chinese fan (perfect for hot TTC rides!) – $3
  • Various lipgloss products – $40
  • Wallet – $50
  • Random USB sticks – free!
  • Metropass – $100
  • Customized purse hanger – $13
  • Miscellaneous (hanky, gum, mints, etc.) – $10

TOTAL: $1,386

Holy shit.

I just have sort of average stuff… or at least I thought I did :S I guess because I like to save up and buy quality items over time they add up! All my costs are what I assume it would cost to replace those items.

It’s amazing to see how having just 3 good-quality lipgloss products can suddenly mean you’re carrying around $40 of merch in your bag. I don’t think I even included my hand cream.

The thing is, I don’t really want to get rid of anything in my bag. It’s all useful and I use it regularly. It just shocks me to see how much it would cost to replace everything.

But I’m kind of glad I did this exercise! I will be much more aware of what I do with my bag and will be more motivated to keep it! Sheesh!

So… what’s in your bag?

Tea Party: Pulling it off

Well! I’d say the tea party was a resounding success, despite a few minor setbacks!

Friday night I went all over the place to pick up the final ingredients and such for the main event. I visited a number of bakeries, cheese mongers, florists and grocers to get everything I needed. By that point I was so exhausted I got myself a pad thai and a taxi home :S

I spent Friday night setting up the table, the flowers & decor and prepping some of the foods for the next day. I got the chicken salad successfully curried and… well… now that I look back I think that may have been the only food-related thing I got done, aside from washing the fruit. Next time around I will definitely prepare more ahead of time!

I totally could have done the minted cream cheese for the cucumber sandwiches, and pre-rolled all the asparagus spears in smoked prosciutto. Thank goodness for helpful friends!

My new pal “Hattie” came over early to help me set up, and boy am I glad she came! Despite waking up early to get things done, I was still scrambling at the last minute. I put her to work slicing bread and applying delicious, delicious cream cheese while I got the asparagus and cucumber ready.

We went along at a clipped pace until I realized that we had already passed my “3pm SHARP!” arrival time for guests. Ruh-roh! This is one of the few times I was glad my friends were tardy! Hattie offered to finish the sandwiches for me while I went to get dressed.

It was then that I realized that I had completely forgotten about the focal point of my tea party: THE SCONES!!!! Chaos ensued while I got up to my elbows in butter and flour to whip a batch out before everyone came. Good thing I did the practice run last weekend!

After a hasty mixing session I was shooed out of the kitchen in order to dress myself. When I popped out Hattie and another gal pal were finishing everything up in the kitchen. I love my friends! Pulling me out of the fire at my own party and all that…

Finally, everything was pretty much done, and we got down to the business of socializing like the wonderful, civilized ladies we are! The scones turned out beautifully, by the way :)

Now, everything in a tea party is about the details and little touches, so I offer you:

The Details

My menu consisted of the following:

  • Fresh-from-the-oven sugared scones
  • An assortment of homemade jams (plum, apple butter & raspberry…except the raspberry wasn’t homemade. Oh well) plus double Devon cream which was a total bitch to find, but absolutely necessary in my cream or low tea
  • An assortment of petit fours I picked up from the local boulangerie
  • Cucumber mint sandwiches
  • Smoked prosciutto and asparagus with honey mustard sandwiches
  • Curried chicken salad sandwiches with apple & cranberry for a kick+colour!
  • About 20 different types of teas, from traditional to rooibos to the exotic!
  • Fresh fruit
  • Candy!
  • A special liqueur plus champagne drink recipe I brought back with me from Europe

Tea party buffet

The set-up:

  • The main table set with delicate china, flowers, ornaments, bowls of jams & creams and my very special handmade Italian tablecloth I picked up at a traditional lace-making school in Venice
  • A buffet for the food
  • Flowers and decorations throughout the room
  • My cat. Decorated. With a pink bow. She’s awesome.

Tea table set-up
Flowers that match the decals in my kitchen
More flowers!

The only details left to mention are the fashion and the meaning behind the tea party. Stay tuned!

Tea Party Prep

This coming weekend I am hosting my very first tea party for my closest friends.

I’ve been mulling over the idea for quite some time now, and with the popularity of Alice in Wonderland bringing the focus back on this tradition, I thought the time was ripe for my own!

While I myself am not the biggest tea drinker (although my collection would beg to differ!) I have always loved the classic idea, rituals and etiquette of a traditional tea party.

The usual elements of a tea party include:

  • formal table settings
  • petit fours (little sweet cakes and pastries)
  • tea sandwiches
  • scones with jam and cream
  • TEA!

When most people think of tea parties, they think of stuffy old ladies with hats and gloves sitting around with pinkies up and “hemm-hemming” over the latest faux pas someone in the community has committed. But this isn’t always the case!

I think tea parties offer a great way to get your friends together to appreciate the civilized side of life that we so often neglect in society these days.

Tea parties can be in any theme that you like, from classic traditional to wacky, zaney or even morbid! The key to setting the mood is the decor, menu and etiquette that you choose to observe during the event.

For my party, I’m going with a “funky & elegant” theme, and have asked my guests to dress up with their interpretation of the term “tea party”. I have some diverse friends each with their own unique style so I am really looking forward to seeing their outfits! With their permission I will be posting them on the blog afterwards :) Of course I’ll be dressing up, too!

I don’t have a ton of money to spend on this event, so the decor will be a bit on the eclectic side as I pull together all the cool serving dishes, decorations and linens that I have to make one cohesive theme. Good thing I’m an old hand at the eclectic look!

So far hot pink seems to be the dominant accent colour, but we’ll see what shows up in the end!

This week I will be pulling everything together, including the decor, table set-up, menu and trial runs of some of the tricker treats that I am preparing and posting about it on the blog.

I would love to hear of your own tea party experiences, and if you have any tips or tricks to share with me as I prepare for my own.

Thanks, and cheerio, darling!

Mystery Gift

After another craptastic day at work I came home to a nice surprise:


DRINK ME

Someone has sent me a nice bottle of Black Tower wine and some bracelets! How sweet. And what good timing.

I haven’t been writing much lately because life has just become unwieldy. I’ve realized that I really don’t like my job anymore, don’t want to just get another job somewhere else doing the same thing but I don’t really have a clear idea of what I WANT to do. What a pickle.

Top that off with the month from hell at work with tight deadlines and all kinds of crazy and you’ve got one unhappy gal. Last week I drowned my sorrows in a bottle of wine. It was the first time I’ve ever finished a whole bottle by myself.

Well, not by myself. I did drink the whole thing but I was at my friends’ place for dinner that night so they took care of me. It was bad.

Then I found out that my pup passed away. It has not been great lately, folks.

So this is very well-timed bottle of wine+sparklies. I can either crack ‘er open this weekend as I end another shitty week, or I may save it for my upcoming tea party (one of the few lights in my sky right now).

I don’t know which PR company sent this to me, but thanks. It made my day just a little bit better.

Helping out in Haiti

I am SO PROUD of my family!

I just found out that my uncle who is a captain for Air Canada volunteered his time off the clock to fly a relief jet down to Port-au-Prince filled with supplies and support workers. On the way back they brought home sick and injured Canadians. His flight was the first non-military aircraft allowed to land.

Here is the email I received from my aunt:

Hey guys Uncle was on the CTV news last night!  Uncle took a volunteer group for Disaster relief to Haiti yesterday.  He flew the Air Canada plane out of Montreal at 6:00 am yesterday with armed police guards, nurses, doctors, medical supplies and a bag of $90,000 in his hand just in case they got into trouble and he needed to buy something.

There was no control tower so I am not sure how he landed but he said he was almost hit by a plane while they were sitting on the ramp.  He was way past the legal time to fly but he waited at the airport until they collected as many sick and injured people as possible to take back with them to Canada.

He arrived in Montreal last night close to midnight, absolutely exhausted!  Before he left (we got the call just the night before) so in the morning we contacted various people in our town who needed to get medical supplies to their contacts in Haiti.  He met a lady who ran to the drug store in town and cleaned them out, wrapped up the supplies and gave him this huge box to take with him on the plane.  When he went through security they didn’t want to let him go so he demanded to see the manager and the manager just waved him through without even looking at the box.  No rules apply when you are in the middle of a disaster!

He had to have armed guards to protect him and the plane because of the unrest and violence in the country.  Air Canada wanted that plane back!!

He told me he saw things he couldn’t even put into words.  He should be arriving home any time now and I can’t wait to hear his stories.

It was so cool seeing him interviewed on the CTV news though!  He looked so professional…not the funny Uncle that we know.  But most importantly he made it home safely!!  I just got a call from Air Canada and they want to debrief with him re: the flight.  They are planning another one and they want him to do it again…you know once is enough.  He’s home safe now and it was exciting and everything but I don’t really want him going back again…

We are glad to have him back. I had no idea that he would be doing this! I scooped some photos that he took while there (below). I don’t think they let him leave the airport (or possibly even the plane) for safety reasons. I never realized how valuable and at risk my uncle could be!

I’m going to email him and see if he has any stories to tell.

If you would like to help the Haitians, these are the two major organizations you can donate to:

DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS / MÉDECINS SANS FRONTIÈRES (MSF) – CANADA

Canadian Red Cross