Back in the saddle

I missed this, I really did!

I’ve been composing blog posts in my head for weeks, perhaps even months but just never sat down to do anything. Life has been a whirlwind and I’m going through life & personal changes again. I think I needed that break from blogging to fully live my life rather than just be an observer. Now I can do both!

I’m unemployed once again. Sort of. I worked hard for Airbnb.com for just over a year, and this month they pulled the plug. They told us that they could no longer support Canadian employees, so all of us were getting laid off. Personally I think it was a seriously bad business move; but the company has changed quite a bit since it’s beginnings and I was thinking of leaving anyway. We were treated like second class citizens and frankly; if I’m going to put up with that it needs to be for way more than what they were paying us!

Hey Wimdu, are you hiring? LOL

So yeah, back looking for a job and ways to fill my time. The good news is that I’ve got until Xmas to find something, the B&B business is going extremely well (stay tuned for updates on that front, I am expanding my empire!) and none of my old corporate clothes fit! Yay! It’s the good kind of not-fitting, the I-lost-a-size-&-didn’t-know-it kind of not fitting :) That definitely cheered me up this week!

I’ve got to get through the huge backlog of emails in my Ginger email account (thanks y’all!) but I just wanted to drop by to say I’m back.

And also share this photo of my new hair with you:

That’s right! I chopped off 7″ of my hair & am rocking the short pinup look now

A Difficult Day

Today was one hell of a day.

The past few weeks have actually been pretty…off.

I guess the biggest thing that has been bothering me is my day job. They dissolved our group and made us apply again for our own jobs making us jump through a bunch of hoops for them. And I just found out that I didn’t even get my old job back. And the news was delivered to me in a very rude way. The person telling me has no empathy at all and I don’t know how she got a job working with customer service people when her own people skills are so poor.

I still have a job with the company but will be moving to a different department. I’m pretty miffed about this. I helped to build the pilot program and suddenly I’m not good enough for their team. The kicker is that the brown-noser (aka really annoying guy) from my team got in. That really grinds my gears, I have way more to offer than him. But as my friend reminded me today, I wouldn’t really want to work on a team if everyone was like him. And also because they have no idea what they’re doing or where they’re going with this department and are in competition with another, larger, more established department for the same territory.

My friend thinks this may be a blessing in disguise. I can only hope. I am really disappointed by the management and my company. I guess the rose-coloured glasses have to come off at some point, right?

At least now I can move full steam ahead with With Heart. I’m doing some offline selling now and setting up at festivals and craft shows to help generate some traffic. Since I anticipate going through my current stock very quickly, I am on the hunt for more artisans to buy from! Hit me up if you know of some cool stuff that should be in the boutique and I’ll look into it.

 

Wet Cat is wet

Today I also discovered that Luna has fleas. I have no idea where they came from but it’s freaking me out. I spent this morning googling solutions and watching YouTube videos on how to wash your cat. Thrilling stuff, that.

I made a trip to the pet store this afternoon with my new little French sister (aka one of my guests) and picked up some tips and products to try out. The pet store guy recommended giving her a regular bath, using the flea drops on her neck and then spraying the house to get rid of any lingering bugs.

I just cannot abide by having bugs in my house, but somehow I keep attracting them at this new place. I seem to have a never-ending supply of ants marching across my floors (despite the traps & lack of food lying around), a fruit-fly problem and now fleas. Fabulous. Not only do I have a mini-UN at my house, but also a small menagerie. And my landlord is a dick (that’s a story for another day).

There’s just a whole host of things going on lately and I’m left feeling tired and bitter. There are good things, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like I am still getting more than my share of the shit end of the stick.

What it’s like: Running a B&B from your home

I have been hosting/renting out my extra space online for about 2 years so far. I guess I’m like a cross between and upscale hostel and B&B and a great hotel alternative! (Even though I’m a B&B I don’t actually offer breakfast… LOL)

Business is booming and after a move to a larger location and many more guests, I’ve had a bit of an education on what it’s like to do this sort of thing! I’m planning on teaching a Skillshare class on how to do all of this effectively for yourself, but here’s a little taste anyway.

Here is what I’ve learned.

1. Use multiple services to fill your space

I am signed up on several different sites, but so far the ones to produce the most for me have been Airbnb.com and Wimdu.com. While I get most of my bookings through Airbnb, I’ll get a few good ones through the competitors as well. Full disclosure here: I work for Airbnb. But as a host, I believe in having a diverse portfolio so I use other sites as well. But Airbnb is still the leader in terms of money-making potential for me.

2. Keep your calendars up to date

I sync all of my calendars to my personal Google calendar. Not only do I need to keep track of which guest booked which room for how long, I also need to know when people are arriving and checking out. I need to have enough time to turn over (clean up) the rooms and get the rest of the apartment up to snuff. I also need to be home when new guests arrive, so that means I can’t schedule a yoga class or girl’s night at that time.

I love my Google calendar so much. It’s synced with my iphone and color-coded too to help me stay organized. Here’s what it looked like last month:

What a "calm" month looks like

 

3. Make a cleaning kit & plan

Most of your time will be spent cleaning and getting things ready for new guests. Set up little stations, or have a bucket with all of your supplies handy as you go around tidying up. Remember to “start from the top!” by dusting, etc. first, then finishing with the floors. Keep a stack of extra towels, sheets, pillows, etc. hidden somewhere in case they’re needed.

I have multiple sets of sheets for each bed so that I can just swap out new ones immediately. I don’t always have the time to wash the sheets right away (I have a small machine and also air-dry) so this is helpful for me. I try to do everything I can to make things easy for me, and as quick as possible in case I get last-minute guests.

4. Schedule some time for yourself

This line of work can be exhausting. Because I live in my “B&B” I am always on, always working. I need to be available to my guests for anything because it’s part of why they stay with me instead of at a hotel. Customer service is very important, but living it all the time wears you out.

So every once in a while I will block off a weekend, or week and keep the place just to myself. It gives me a break and helps me refresh myself. I can also get any major work done around the house that I’ve been putting off for a while.

5. Keep track of your finances & set goals

I keep a Google spreadsheet of all the bookings I get. Names, room booked, nights spent, nightly cost and total cost. I have a goal every month on how much I need to make. Pick something reasonable. For me, it’s making enough money to bring my personal rent down to $500 or less. Most months I am able to surpass this and it feels great!

Something I need to work on more is keeping track of expenses. My hydro bill is higher than a regular tenant’s and so are my costs for cleaning supplies, the free coffee & tea I offer and toilet paper. Plus any unforeseen costs such as replacing towels or sheets that may come up.

Once I get the hang of things with this particular set up, I hope to have a separate bank account to keep track of the flow in and out of cash from the business. Eventually I will need to register as a business and run it…well, even more like a business!

Come to my class

I have a ton more tips & tricks to share on this subject. It’s actually my “real job” too! If you’re in the Toronto area and would like to really get some in-depth information and customized recommendations you can sign up for my Skillshare class (I’m only charging to cover the cost of the room rental).

You can also just sound off in here and we’ll get a conversation started :)

If you’re interested in signing up for Airbnb as either a host or a traveler, I’ve got some cool deals for you!

If you want to host, you can get $50 in travel credit for joining up by going here and entering my referral code: 8CTNCM

If you want to travel OR host you can get $25 in travel credit by going here.

 

 

My Deck is Now a Pool

Luna is getting some serious cat business done and I’m sitting down to write this post.

It’s not exactly how I had planned to spend my day off, but all my plans for today are fuzzed due to the torrential rains outside!

Weather in Canada is always a good topic of conversation, but this is really something else! It is one day before my annual Tea/Garden party and I had hoped to hold it outside on my new deck.

Unfortunately, this is what my deck looks like right now:

The blue bin is to catch rainwater to water the plants with... later.

Yes, that IS ankle-deep water you see! My deck is actually a flat roof and not really a deck at all. But when I had it all dressed up with candles and flowers it was a pretty good entertaining space.

Right now I think it’s trying to be a kiddie pool. I went out to check on my plants and found a huge build-up of water towards the back. Looks like the drains were installed higher than the damn waterline, and nothing was draining. I spent about 20 minutes outside using a squeegee to try and push the water towards the drains at the back, and clear them of debris. I think they’re working a little now, but there is still going to be a mass of water to deal with later.

All said, I think it was kind of cool in a woman-versus-nature way to be out there bailing out my deck. Unfortunately I got absolutely soaked so I’m back inside warming up after a hot shower.

The reason this is cramping my style is because I needed to get a bunch of stuff done for the party today. I’m making a black forest cake and need a few extra items (post to follow!). While my grocery store is only around the corner, the way it’s raining now I doubt my umbrella would stand up. And I don’t have boots or a rain coat. We really just don’t get this kind of rain in Toronto!

*sigh* I have new guests arriving this weekend so this is a good excuse to vacuum/dust/etc. the whole house and get some other chores done. I did laundry last night but due to the humidity from the rain, it’s still not dry (I air dry)!

I also need to plan out how I can salvage this party tomorrow. Can’t do it outside, haven’t planned very much for it yet, not really feeling it and a bunch of my friends can’t make it. What a bummer. I wonder if someone is trying to tell me something. It’s weird, this feeling. Normally I love throwing parties but all I feel these days is fatigue. Maybe it will get better in the summer with BBQ season.

Hosting Benefit = Tarte Tatin

One of the things I love about being a B&B host is that I get to learn a lot about the cultures of my guests (and by culture I primarily mean food).

A perfect example being the past 10 days. I’ve had 2 awesome women staying with me from France and we’ve become good friends :) They’ve been teaching me all kinds of phrases en Français that we don’t use here, and also made me some delicious tarte tatin!

I’ve never had it before (nor made it) so I took lots of photos :)

Priscilla, Me & Sandrine @ my housewarming party

What is it?

Tarte tatin is basically a caramel-apple pie. Simple ingredients and totally delicious you can eat it plain, add spices or change the pastry to your liking.

First you cook equal parts butter and sugar  (around 1/4 cup each) together to create the caramel. When it changes colour, remove it from the heat and start layering your apple slices like so:

Make sure not to touch the molten caramel!

For a skillet the size you see there, we used about 6 apples. They’ll cook down in the heat, so cram them in there!

 

Cramming

 

All 6 apples are in there!

Next, take some pre-made pastry and tuck it in around the apples. My friends didn’t know that phyllo was different from butter pastry and bought that by mistake. That’s why it looks a little weird.

 

Tuck the pastry blanket around the sleepy apples

Trim the dough if necessary. It’s actually going to be the bottom of the tarte so you don’t want too much hanging around.

Haircut

Pop it in the oven (we did it at 350*F) for about 20 minutes or so. You know it’s done when the caramel starts bubbling up the sides and the pastry is nice and golden.

Take it out of the oven, then immediately flip the tarte out onto a plate that is larger than the pan you cooked it in. Be careful! Molten caramel may fly everywhere so be vigilant! I didn’t really have a suitable plate so we just used a cheap tray from the dollar store. You can see why you need something with an edge… the juice from the apples pours out everywhere.

mmmmm juicy

 

And voila! You have just made traditional tarte tatin. Or in this case, my friend Sandrine made it for me :)

 

Some tips and tricks from Sandrine

  • There are 2 “hard” parts: making sure the caramel doesn’t burn, and flipping the lava-hot tarte onto the plate
  • If the caramel burns, you’re screwed. It gets bitter and nasty and you have to start over again. Unfortunately this happened to our tarte since neither of us had used my kitchen for baking before this and we didn’t know how the oven would perform!
  • You can slice your apples into quarters, or thinner. The thinner they are, the more caramel they will absorb
  • Use unsalted butter for a better taste
  • Traditional tarte tatin doesn’t have cinnamon or other spices because they can overpower the caramel flavour. But you can spice it up if you like!
  • Tarte tatin is best served warm. You can eat it with ice cream, sour cream or whipped cream
  • If you use a cast iron skillet like we did, reduce your cooking time so the caramel doesn’t get rank and burned
  • Have your apples pre-sliced and ready to go
  • Use butter or regular pastry. The phyllo was ok but…different

Even though the tarte wasn’t so good this time around, I can tell that this dessert would be amazeballs when properly executed. Overall I don’t think it’s too difficult (very similar to making a Spanish tortilla!) so I’ll probably whip this out to impress guests in the future.

I just really love that Sandrine made it for me :)

Hello, World!

Hey guys! It’s been a while!

I needed a bit of a break and ran out of things to talk about. But now I’m back on a part-time basis.

There’s a lot of catching up to do!

Me and Kid Koala in Toronto. Don't judge, it was the most recent photo I had!

I guess the biggest update is that I moved to a new apartment. An upgrade, to be exact. I went from a 2-bedroom in a residential area to a 4-bedroom in a trendier area of the city. I’m going full steam ahead with the B&B business and have 3 rooms to rent out now! The hope is that within a couple of years I’ll have enough banked to get another studio apartment somewhere in the city and rent that out as well. Long-term, I’m looking at becoming a property manager (in addition to running With Heart and working at Airbnb.com). It’s been a wild ride! I got possession of the apartment mid-February and moved in at the beginning of March.

I’m excited because I’m having my first party this weekend. You know how I love to throw parties! This is the housewarming party where I show off the new place to everyone. Two weeks later is the perennial favourite…

The Tea Party!!!

Yay!

I’ve actually had to re-brand it as the Garden Party because too many people come to it now and I ran out of tea cups and place settings for a proper tea party. This should still be awesome though, with the standard tea + menu, formal attire and hats per usual. I’ll keep you guys updated on the plans for that since it’s one of my favourite topics.

Business

In my personal life, things have been changing too. I have a cool, more important position at work, and just came back from a work trip in New York City. Things are going pretty well. My B&B (Hestia House) is doing very well, and With Heart is chugging along.

Relationships

Since the holidays I’ve been dating quite a bit, but  no one to call my boyfriend yet. I do enjoy the dinners out, though! Navigating through these kinds of interactions has been quite the learning experience for me. I’m debating on whether to talk about them on here or not. My mother (and possibly my aunt) did the unthinkable and found/read my blog despite my asking them not to.  I keep my life private from them because they’re huge gossips and I don’t want my life to be their next topic at the Bunko table.

My friends are great and I love them so much. Nothing new to report on that!

Health & Wellness

As you can see from the photo, I’ve lost some weight! Since the surgery I am officially down 30lbs. I will soon be increasing that number! A good friend of mine is becoming a personal trainer and I am to be her first client! I think it’s great since she’ll come to my house twice a week to kick my ass. No more excuses, right?

I have also been taking some great yoga classes for plus size women. I could probably do regular yoga but I just like these ones better. Plus I do pretty well at all the poses because a lot are quite similar to my kung fu poses! I’m going to try out Zumba from the same lady next. It looks promising!

This is all I can think of to update on right now. Hopefully the need to write will strike me again soon. If there are any readers left who would like to have me write about something, let me know. I may indulge you!

It’s nice to be back <3

Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful…

Look what I got in the mail today!

Courtesy of KitchenAid Canada, I’ll be testing out the new 13-Cup Food Processor this holiday season, and I can’t wait!

I have been lusting after it ever since I got the email. I LOVE KitchenAid products because they’re so well-made and stylish. I invested in a professional grade stand mixer several years ago and also have their bake ware, cookware and other little gadgety things. Everything has stood up well against my kitchen experiments, and overall they make cooking much easier for me!

I have been considering the purchase of a food processor for some time now. As I grow more adventurous and throw more events in my home, having one would be very helpful. I think the Gods were listening to my prayers because not only do I get a free processor, but the Cadillac of food processors. I can’t wait to learn how to use this puppy and make some delicious noms!

Now to figure out how to set up the bazillion pieces of this…

My stand mixer won't be so lonely anymore

 

Sweet & Spicy

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