The Chevrolet Volt And The Perks Of Going Electric

Do you have an electric or hybrid car? Have you ever thought about owning an electric car? My family doesn’t own one, but after recently test driving the Chevrolet Volt, I’m wondering why it’s taken me so long to seriously think about the perks of owning an electric car.

We’re in a car industry revolution now, like it or not. The rules of the game in vehicle technology and how we think about transportation in general have changed significantly over the last few years.

Not only do we have connected cars, but automated or self-driving cars are here, with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers forecasting 75% of cars on the road will be automated by 2040. And, electric cars are becoming easier and more economical to own, in part due to advances in clean energy, increased battery life, and wider availability of charging stations in buildings and malls.

Given all of these exciting advancements, my husband and I were definitely interested in test-driving the latest Chevrolet Volt at Hogan Chevrolet, in Scarborough, Ontario.

Hogan Chevrolet, Scarborough, Ontario. Photo by SweetLifeStyle.ca
Hogan Chevrolet, Scarborough, Ontario
Photo by SweetLifeStyle.ca

About The Chevrolet Volt

The award-winning Volt, although technically a hybrid, runs on an electric motor and gets additional energy it needs from the gas-powered generator (detailed specs here).

We test drove the Volt Premier which operates with elements of automated technology such as Side Blind Zone Alert with Lane Change Alert, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Lane Keep Assist. These are fancy ways of saying that the car’s technology is scanning the area for potential accidents, which made us feel safer. We actually liked the red lights in the side mirrors checking our blind spot and helping us switch lanes safely.

Driving and Pricing the Chevrolet Volt

Although our drive was on a typical snowy Canadian day, we felt it was ideal for testing the Volt’s performance.

The first thing we noticed is that the Volt’s beautiful blue color added to its compact, sleek look. When we got in, we felt like we were in a sports car because the car was somewhat low to the ground. With the engine on, the Volt is very quiet and you wonder if it’s running. The dashboard is actually a screen with very cool graphics, like a top-down view of the electric motor, and information about which energy source is being used to run the car. I could see myself wanting to keep the energy source electric at all times!

Photo by SweetLifeStyle.ca
Photo by SweetLifeStyle.ca

In terms of acceleration, the Chevy Volt was responsive, fast, and performed like a gas-powered car. You could’t tell it was an electric car, even at over 100 kms/hr on the highway!

The Volt took corners comfortably and we were impressed with how quickly and smoothly the brakes reacted on the snowy road surfaces. The car handled well and we felt in control, especially given the wet weather. Our very patient and knowledgeable salesman, Paul, explained that part of the appeal of the Volt is the regenerative braking which recharges the battery as you brake.

The interior of the car felt roomy, especially in front. The back seats are okay but only seat two people comfortably because the middle seat requires the third person to straddle the battery cover. I was very impressed with how spacious the trunk is and the two back seats fold down for more room.

The Volt Premier has an MSRP of C$42,490. With government incentives, the price is closer to $34,000 – higher than the average compact car. Our salesman told us that the cost to run the Volt on electric charge is about $30 a month. So, there are big savings. We currently spend about $3500 a year on gas, 10 times more than the electric running cost. You must factor this in when making a decision to purchase an electric car!

The Chevrolet Volt Customer

The Volt is a bought car. Buyers have done their homework and thought about their driving and charging needs carefully.  You need an outlet to charge the battery, so you need to live in a house or an equipped building. You also need to consider your daily driving needs. If you want to keep your drive electric, your daily round trip should be kept to 85 kms unless you’re headed to a place with a charging station.

What about a long trip or getting your Volt from one local electric driving area to another? With a total range of 672 kms, you could, under ideal driving conditions, take the Volt between Toronto and Montreal, without recharging, thanks to the gas-powered generator. That’s amazing. Purely electric cars just don’t have that range yet.

The best part of our test drive came at the end of our visit when a customer who already owned two Volts came over to tell us how much he and his daughter loved them. By the way, I just want to say here that we got the impression that customers were like family at Hogan because everyone seemed so friendly and wanted to talk! Anyway, this gentleman especially liked the low charging costs as well as the fewer gas station visits. He also drove his car regularly to the cottage, explaining that, even if the gas powered generator kicked in on the way to the cottage, once he reached his destination and charger, local trips would be back to electric power.

Owning a Chevy Volt gave this customer pride of being part of an  environmentally conscious community. There’s a non-profit organization called Plug ‘N Drive that helps customers set up their charging station at home and educates the public about the electric car industry. And, resources like the PlugShare app locate nearby charging stations.

The Bottom Line on the Chevrolet Volt

After this test drive, would I buy an electric car? Absolutely. The no-compromise handling, advanced features, and quiet operation of the Volt make it very attractive. An electric car would suit our needs as we are city drivers, 99% of the time.

The best part about owning an electric car, other than the $3200 I would save on gas, is being part of an environmentally savvy group of like-minded people who are proud to add new meaning to the concept of driving responsibly.

Our Chevrolet Volt test drive opened our eyes and mind to a new way of looking at transportation in general, and electric cars in particular. These are exciting times for the car industry, and I think we’ve only scratched the surface in terms of options, savings, and social responsibility!

This post was created in partnership with the friendly staff and customers at Hogan Chevrolet, but, as always, all opinions are my own. (Photos are taken from chevrolet.ca unless otherwise indicated.)

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Why Joe Fresh Is One of My Favorite Stores

I thought I’d write a quick post on Joe Fresh, a clothing retail store founded in 2006 in Canada. If you’re not familiar with Joe, let me place it for you. Joe Fresh stores are smaller than H&M and Uniqlo, but generally in the same price range and offerings, with Joe showing more collections per season.

I’ve been a bit obsessed with Joe lately because I scored a few great deals over the holidays and every time I wear them, I get lots of compliments.

So, I guess you could say that it’s convenient that there’s a Joe Fresh within a few kilometres of my house! A lot of the stores are located within or right next to Loblaw’s grocery stores in Ontario. This means you could be shopping for food when you come across the Joe Fresh section of the store, say, somewhere between the laundry detergent and canned goods. You take a peek at the seasonal clothing and you end up buying a new t-shirt for about $10. This isn’t a big purchase, doesn’t need a lot of thought, and doesn’t come with much guilt.

And, that’s the idea behind Joe Fresh: treat yourself to something fun, fashionable, and affordable!  Since its inception, Joe Fresh has grown to over 350 Canadian stores, plus a store in New York City, some in Mexico, and some in the Gulf states.

This past holiday season, I ended up buying a 100% cashmere crewneck pullover that was half price. I had first seen the sweater on Miranda Kerr, who was featured in Elle Canada magazine, as Joe Fresh’s face for the 2016 fall and holiday campaigns. When I went in to the store on Black Friday, the sales had begun and I got sucked in to looking around, not that it takes much to keep me in the store!

Here are 5 reasons why Joe Fresh is one of my favorite places to shop:

One: Joe Fresh carries fashionable pieces, for men, women, and children. There are a few collections per season, so there’s always something new and fresh (and consequently on sale) in the store. Whatever the fashion magazines say is trending, Joe Fresh carries. For example, this winter, puffer jackets were big and Joe had them in plain colors as well as a leopard print. Mixed media tops and felt hats were in and Joe carried them.

Two: the prices at Joe Fresh are reasonable. On average, sweaters will be $29-49 dollars. Tops will be $19-49, etc. Pajama bottoms are $12, cotton t-shirts $8-$12. If something is made of cashmere, wool, or silk, the price will match the quality of the fabric.

Three: I love that Joe Fresh carries basics like (cotton) underwear, socks, tights, sleepwear, bathing suits, and rashguards. Yes, I consider bathings suits to be a basic because we do swim year-round here! They also have great activewear options that are colorful, seasonal, useful,  and well-priced.

Four: Over the years, I’ve collected some beautiful jewelry pieces from Joe Fresh, especially statement necklaces. They’re made of heavy metal, which adds a feeling of elegance and substance, with designs ranging from trendy to art-deco to vintage-y looks. I get the most compliments when I wear the Joe necklaces.

Five: Finally, Joe Fresh carries other accessories like sunglasses, scarves, flip-flops, shoes, boots, sandals, and makeup. You want that green nail polish or eye shadow that you see others wearing? Well, pick it up at Joe Fresh for the season. What better way to be on-trend than adding well-priced accessories?

My favorite way to shop at Joe Fresh is to go in whenever I can park at the front door (usually in the evenings)!! Online is another perfect way to shop because if the store doesn’t have your size, or the color you want, you can usually find it in their online inventory and have it delivered to your house.

So, here’s what I got in the last few weeks at Joe Fresh:

  • One cashmere crewneck sweater
  • Two statement necklaces, one with an art-deco feel and the other one a more classic flower necklace
  • Two pairs of flannel short pajamas, one very seasonally decorated with foxes and Christmas trees (for my daughter), and one a classic plaid
  • One rashguard top for my daughter to use in swimming class

I can’t wait to see what else is coming for spring, because, yup, the first collection is already in the store! You can check it out online, here.

Do you shop at Joe Fresh? What’s your favorite Joe Fresh purchase?

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New Year’s Resolutions, Goals, or Both?

Happy New Year to all of my readers!

How do you feel about a new year? How do you feel about making New Year’s Resolutions? If you made any last year, did you keep them? Do you set New Year’s Goals as well?

To quickly answer these questions: I find new years and new beginnings to be generally exciting and hopeful. I’m okay with making some New Year’s Resolutions and managed to keep most of mine from 2016. As for New Year’s Goals, I think they’re as important as resolutions. When I asked my family if they thought there was a difference, we all agreed that resolutions are more like daily habits we want to work on while goals are longer term items we work towards that can be measured and tracked. (If you want to read more about setting goals, you can check out this link to the Mind Tools website.)

As I look back on 2016, I would say that I had a great year, for which I feel lucky given the many terrorist attacks and tragedies we saw. I traveled more than ever, which is a big deal for me as I overcame a lot of anxiety over traveling by plane. I caught up with more family and friends than ever, and I’m so happy about being in touch with them more regularly, thanks to social media and long distance conversations over the phone or WhatsApp. And, I got to spend time blogging, connecting with new people, and learning a lot about freelance writing.

I wrote about the resolutions I made for 2016 in a post you can read here. The 5 New Year’s Resolutions I set were:

  • Get more sleep
  • Be more forgiving
  • Be more positive
  • Waste less food
  • Eat more fruits

Each one of these resolutions was a habit I wanted to work on daily. I’m proud of how much calmer I am and I’m pretty sure that was from forgiving faster, knowing that this would make me happier and more positive. I also approached more ‘problems’ by telling myself that most issues I had in the past were resolved at the end and that it would be helpful to stay focused throughout and expect good results. I need a lot more work on this resolution, but a few people close to me commented on how I was approaching and looking at things more calmly –unsolicited. Yay!

In terms of wasting less food, that worked out okay as I shopped less frequently for perishable foods and accepted that I would pay more for last minute items I needed. I could do better here. Frozen fruit smoothies (blog post here) and fruit salads prepared in advance helped me meet the ‘eat more fruits’ resolution.

My first resolution on sleep, however, was the hardest. There’s only one way for me to get more sleep, and that’s to go to bed earlier. My body clock wakes me up at 5:30. Period. So, that resolution is back on the list for 2017. The only way to get more sleep is for me to take time for myself earlier in the day. One of the main reasons I go to bed late is that I need some down time at the end of the evening. I’m thinking of finding most of this time in the early mornings or late afternoon, before dinner.

In terms of goals, 2-3 goals seem to be what most people can handle effectively. One of my main goals for 2017 is to find my niche as a freelance writer. I’ve already found two role models and writers that have been so encouraging and full of great advice. I’m excited about what they’ve taught me already. Another goal is to keep my house less cluttered so that I can have company over at a moment’s notice. I know I’ll feel better and that my family will feel better when I’ve reached that goal.

So, I leave you on this New Year’s Day with the wish that you meet any resolutions or goals you set. One of my readers recommended sharing these goals or New Year’s resolutions with a friend so you can tweak or make changes as necessary with objective input. Also, remember that you don’t need a new year to start doing something differently. You can always start doing whatever it is you want at any time. The point is not to give up.

I’d love to hear about any New Year’s goals or resolutions you have made or tips on how to keep track of your progress. Wishing you all a happy, healthy 2017 full of good things!

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Seven Tips For Hosting a Stress-Free Holiday Party

fullsizerender-29For the past few years, I’ve hosted a holiday luncheon for about 40-50 people, kids included. It’s the one big party I have every year to invite the people that have included us in their family celebrations throughout the year and that we see on a regular basis.

The first year or two, the party planning was stressful, mainly because I wasn’t equipped with all of the plates, cutlery, serving dishes, chafing dishes, and coffee maker that I needed and I wasn’t sure about the timing of getting things done. Recently, though, I’ve figured out how to make it as stress-free as possible and I can say that this year’s party was the easiest. It only took 5 years, but that’s okay! If you’re considering hosting some form of holiday party, I hope some of these tips will help:

Tip 1: Give as much notice of the party as possible. I try to give the guests about 3-4 weeks’ notice. Because I hold the party at least 3 weeks before Christmas, most of the guests are still ‘free’ and not caught up in the holiday shopping or other parties. It’s also a fun way for you and the guests to ease into the holiday season.

Tip 2: Start cleaning out the freezer and fridge two weeks before the party. Go through the fridge and freezer and make a mental note of what you can use in the next week or two and toss what is expired. Start buying fewer perishable items like fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products, so that your fridge remains clean and empty. Cook meals that won’t have too many leftovers.  And, consider ordering in or eating out for the last two days before the party… bonus for you and the husband and kids!

fullsizerender-31Tip 3: Bake ahead. Sounds easy enough, but this means that your freezer, from the tip one above, has been cleared out and can handle all of the desserts you are making ahead and freezing. It also means you have made a list of the desserts you are planning on making and that you have on hand storage containers, plastic wrap, waxed paper, and all of the required baking ingredients. Start baking two weeks ahead so the last week can be spent on prepping the house and buying fresh food for the party. Continue reading

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Fun With Patches

img_2737-1Have you noticed all the patches on clothing these days? I love how colorful and fun they are and how much they remind me of when I was a Girl Scout working hard on collecting all of those badges. Nostalgia aside, we’re talking about patches, not badges, here.

So, what’s the difference between a badge and a patch? According to one Girl Scout website, badges are given for completing competencies while patches are given for more fun activities. Good to know. The fashion houses and stores are therefore supplying us with patch inspiration. It’s the combinations, colors, sizes, textures, and messages that appeal to us.

In researching this post, I came across a great website called Asilda Store. Founded by LA-based photographer Anastasia Petukhova, this website sells patches and has a great blog that covers the history of patches as well as other useful information. For example, there’s a post on how patches are designed and one on how to sew or iron patches on. And, there’s one on the history of patches.

Apart from the obvious beginning of using colorful patches to mend ripped jeans, the Asilda Store post traces the history of patches from the ’70s when peace, love, and happiness were the themes, to the ’80s when the punk movement took place. This year in particular, many designers have added patches to their clothing or handbags. It’s not surprising to see this trend resurface and likely be with us for a while. In a way, these patches are like the emojis we use in texting and communicating – but they are on our clothing and accessories.

Continue reading

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Adding Style With Lug-Soled Shoes

img_3309Lug-soled fashion shoes have been around for the last couple of years and for good reason: they’re sturdy, comfortable, and now come in many styles and options. According to The Free Dictionary, a lug sole is a thick rubber sole with deep indentations that improve the stability and traction of utility footwear such as work boots’. Lug soles are common on hiking boots and other utility shoes but are a big part of the fashion scene now. You can find them on dressy as well as casual shoes, from boots to ballet flats.

I only recently jumped on this trend because I’ve seen them in all the shoe stores and they looked comfortable as well as fashionable. Not something I would normally wear, I decided to try these lug-soled shoes to add a little glamour to my favorite jean outfits. They’re growing on me! I’d also wear these with tights and a skirt or a dress, and I’d wear them with a dressy pant.

The lug-soled pair in this post is made of lightweight rubber, is very easy to wear, and puts a fun twist on a classic leather wing-tip loafer. With the fringe and buckle, it’s a bit dressy and feminine. From above, they look like a regular shoe, but the lug soles extend the perimeter of the shoe just a bit and give it a casual flare. The indentations in the sole provide traction and security when walking. And, the heel is graduated slightly to give an element of ‘high-heeled’ fashion – perfect for me because I’m petite. Continue reading

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Crying In Baseball And What The Game Teaches You About Life

Photo taken by Ken Blaze, USA Today Sports; usatoday.com
Photo taken by Ken Blaze, USA Today Sports; usatoday.com

With all due respect to Tom Hanks’ character in A League of Their Own, the fictionalized movie about the All-American Girls Professional League, and the infamous line ‘There’s no crying in baseball’, I’m here to tell you: there IS crying in baseball – and that’s okay.

I’m talking about the kind of crying on players’ faces as they realize what it means to become World Series Champs. The kind of crying by loyal fans because ‘fairweather fan’ doesn’t apply when 1908 is the last time your team won. And, the kind of crying that overcomes you at home as you watch the players’ own emotions become your own.

Very early this morning, the Chicago Cubs won the 2016 World Series, defeating the Cleveland Indians at Cleveland’s Progressive Field. After rain delays, numerous pitching changes, extra innings, and questionable moves and strategies by their manager Joe Maddon, the Chicago Cubs became the 6th team to ever come back from a 3-1 deficit to become World Champs.

Let me stop right here with the baseball jargon, because I’m in no way qualified to talk baseball with any authority. Rather, I’m a fan who appreciates what baseball teaches me about life and how I weave these lessons into my parenting.

I fell in love with baseball in elementary school, when I had a crush on a boy in my class. It’s that simple. Thankfully, my two brothers played baseball, providing the perfect cover for showing up at games. Over time, I cheered on the teams, kept the score on the old-fashioned wooden scoreboards, and even sat in the announcer’s booths in my small hometown. I learned the rules and saw up-close the upsets and triumphs of the players, the teams, and the parents who so badly wanted their sons to excel at baseball.

Today, my love for baseball means cheering my girls on in softball games and taking them to watch the Toronto Blue Jays. I love what the game teaches my kids about life. And, the World Series last night did not disappoint. Here’s what I’ve observed. Continue reading

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5 Tips For A Successful Kids’ Halloween Party

fullsizerenderIt’s Halloween in a few days which means it’s one of my favorite times of the year!  I’ve got childhood memories of wearing my costume and marching in a parade at school for parents and kids to admire.  I’ve got adult memories of carving pumpkins in my college dorm.  I’ve got lots of memories of going trick-or-treating with my kids over the years.  And, handing out candy dressed in a witch hat is an evening I look forward to all year.  So, in my opinion, Halloween is a great excuse to have a party!

I’ve thrown a few Halloween parties for the kids over the years, sometimes themed in with one of my daughter’s birthdays.  It’s just too easy to have a Halloween party, especially when the dollar stores, drug stores, and corner stores are all so well-stocked with fun crafts and ideas.  Did you know that, in the US, Halloween is about a $7 billion a year industry?  Canadians spend about $1 billion, which is more per capita than Americans do on Halloween costumes, decor and candy, according to an October 2014 article in The Financial Post.

img_3046Here are my 5 tips for hosting a party, followed by photos of what I’ve done.

Let the kids be involved in setting the agenda.
Do kids come wearing their costume or not?  What do they want the main activity to be? What do you want to serve? How many people is comfortable for you and your child to entertain? What time do you want to have the party?  I think Halloween is more fun in the dark, so if you can do a late afternoon party, go for it. Continue reading

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That Boho Look

img_7988I love to follow fashion and will buy and wear things that are ‘in style’, but I think that deep down I tend to be a bit of a classic dresser (can you tell by the pearls with this boho look?!).  It may sound boring, but sometimes you just have to know who you are and what you like. You will therefore usually find me wearing sedately fashionable things!  So, when I came across this tunic top, I recognized it as the most classic of “Bohemian” looks and thought it was perfect for my taste given it’s calm pattern and somewhat narrow silhouette.

What is the Bohemian look, anyway?  According to this direct quote from Wikihow, …”‘boho or ‘boho chic’ is a style of dressing that was popularized during the 1960s and 1970s …and the essence of bohemian is focusing on free and flowy fabrics“.  In other words, you’re supposed to feel comfortable and carefree when wearing this style of clothing…and I did.

img_8560So, the boho tunic top featured here fits the bill in that it is made of viscose, a thin, flowy material made from wood pulp.  The style of the top is not structured, nor is the neckline.  The small white designs on a navy background are simple, repeated, geometric shapes and are typical patterns in boho prints.  Because the top is a bit on the longer side, it can be worn long over jeans or front-tucked.

If you follow my blog, you know I love navy, so this top was a natural purchase for me.  It’s also comfortable because it is soft and loose, but not too loose.  As a petite gal, I like its slim silhouette and the fact that I can roll or push up the sleeves without them being bulky.

img_7984 Continue reading

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5 Of My Favorite Tomato Dishes

img_0738I love tomatoes!  And, it’s still tomato season in Ontario.   Maybe, like me, you have a few too many in your fridge if you were tempted by the tomato baskets at the grocery store and at farmer’s markets.  It’s been hot and dry this season, making conditions perfect for growing beautiful tomatoes.  So, I thought I would share a few recipe ideas and links in hopes of inspiring you to try something new.

But, first, let’s take a look at why tomatoes deserve our attention:

  • Although they have a ‘season’, tomatoes are available year-round (thanks to hot-houses) so they are affordable and you can try different recipes all year long.
  • There are so many varieties of tomatoes that come in different shapes, colors, and sizes (roma, plum, heirloom, beefsteak, grape, cherry, etc. ) making it easy to mix things up and keep dishes colorful.
  • Tomatoes are good for you: they are 95 % water, contain Vitamin C, and are low in calories.
  • Tomatoes make a great snack, especially the smaller ones that can easily be packed into a lunch or for eating on the go.
  • There are so many ways to use tomatoes: in sauces, in quick salads, and in cooked dishes.  My family does not can or jar tomatoes, but I know that many families have the tradition of spending a fun day making tomato sauce to be stored and used  all year long.
  • Finally, tomatoes are easy to serve.  They are often my fall-back dish. You can slice them, drizzle them with oil, sprinkle them with salt and pepper, add some basil, and you have a salad in minutes.

img_0314While I was researching this post, I came across this fun fact:  An Ontario Member of Parliament, Mike Colle, proposed a bill to make July 15th Tomato Day and to make the tomato the official vegetable of Ontario.  The current status of the bill is: First Reading Carried, so stay tuned!

Here are a few of my favorite tomato dishes in photos.  There are so many obvious dishes that I haven’t put in here like caprese salad, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, pizza, and green salads.  Because the point of this post was to get you thinking about some different tomato uses, I’ve linked recipes rather than including them in full.

Quinoa Tabouli: Being Lebanese, I grew up eating tabouli as the main salad at family meals.  My mom makes it 3-4 times a week, and it makes sense to have a quinoa version. Here’s one you can try from Epicurious. Continue reading

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