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What A Week.

leonard cohen

Hi friends.

I know it’s been a while. That’s because life has been absolutely insane these past few months. Lot of things have happened, mostly good – but of course, some incredibly bad.

Part of me has wanted to put the blog on complete hold until I can finish the never ending redesign (which is why I have been silent here for a while) but when someone like Trump is elected president, and then we find out Leonard Cohen died, it feels wrong to stay silent. This has always been where I come to vent, and today will be no different.

Obviously, I am not an American, but the reality is, Americans are our neighbours, and they’re also our brothers and sisters. They are not that different from us, despite how much we might protest otherwise and lay claim to superiority since we have Trudeau – a feminist – while they have Trump, a man who campaigned on pure hatred and vitriol toward everyone but white men.

A world under Trump is terrifying. Not because Trump is terrifying (he’s just a clown, nothing more than a power hungry entertainer with a great marketing team) but because if he is impeached (a likely possibility) an even worse monster – Pence – becomes President of the most powerful country in the world. I’d like to believe Trump isn’t nearly as racist or sexist or xenophobic as he campaigned himself to be, he just knew it would work on the people who are.

That said, in the face of the rampant increase in racism and sexism being displayed in full force since his win, it is up to us to do the right thing and protect the people who are now free targets to a once mostly silent majority of the population. Speak up if you see someone saying something hateful. Stand with the person being targeted. Being a bystander is never okay.

As Canadians, we also have a responsibility to not fall into the trap that has taken hold in France, England and America – the nationalist trap that fears the other. This is how devastating wars begin. This is why the violent tragedies that have happened recently have happened at all. Being afraid of refugees moving here is what convinces those vulnerable people to believe the rhetoric of dangerous groups and sign up for their ranks. With every nationalist win like Trump and Brexit, they only get stronger. Aaron Sorkin wrote that ISIS is having a party after Trump’s win, and that’s what strikes me the most about this whole nightmare. By being afraid and filled with hate, you are only making them stronger. This isn’t a solution to the problem, this is how you increase its power over you.

When America had Bush, we followed with Harper. Once they had Obama, we followed with Trudeau. We tend to follow their political ping pong party game pretty closely, and I hope and pray that this doesn’t happen again with our next election in three years. We cannot buy into this world of fear and hate. It only puts us at risk. When you hear a certain Conservative woman on the news spouting about Trump and how she hopes to follow in his footsteps here, tune that shit out. Turn the channel. Don’t write about her. Don’t give her press time. Please don’t validate any Canadians who campaign on hate, like the American media did by giving Trump non-stop press just because it was good for ratings.

We like to believe we are less racist and sexist here, but as we found out last Tuesday night, the silent majority might just be silent until it comes time to vote. Don’t take that for granted. Try your best to educate anyone around you who seems to support the Trump win. Do it without anger (if you can, I know this is incredibly hard for me). People only understand life through their own eyes, their own experiences, and that means your suburban relatives can’t always relate to your point of view. They haven’t experienced the diversity we embrace in cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. They only see the issues that affect them personally, and that is how they vote. Educating the people in your life about what it means to care for your neighbour is key. Educating them about what all this fear mongering nationalism does to strengthen terrorist groups is key. It might not work – people are inherently stubborn and self-interested, but you have to at least try.

In other news, I recently went to NYC for the first time in a DECADE! And it was as incredible as I remembered it to be. There was a time when I wanted nothing more than to leave Toronto for New York, and I think I had to stop visiting in order to truly embrace my city. Now that I adore Toronto and it has developed into an incredible place, I can resume my just as intense love for New York.

I went down there for a writing conference run by and for women, where I learned a ton. Screenwriting has been the most recent passion of mine, and I was able to attend a seminar led by Jenny Lumet, who wrote a film I truly love, Rachel Getting Married. I also got to wander around the MOMA, see the spot where Paul’s Boutique used to be, stay in Brooklyn, get drenched by a full day of rain, live on about 4 hours of sleep a night, eat the finest pizza $3 will ever buy you, tour Greenwich Village to indulge my Bob Dylan love, get lost on the vast subway system, meet a bunch of incredibly talented women writers, attend live tapings of The View and Dr Oz (because all the shows I wanted to see… Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Steven Colbert, SNL were sold out) and visit the 9/11 memorial. It was an incredibly packed 4 days.

Before that, I fulfilled one of my biggest music industry dreams – I was a Grand Juror for the Polaris Prize 2016 – which as you know by now went to Kaytranada’s 99.9% – a truly fantastic album that I never would have given a fair listen to were it not for the privilege of being on this incredible jury. It wasn’t the album that I was there to fight for (that would be Black Mountain’s fantastic IV) but I understand exactly why it won and I stand behind the choice.

One more great thing, I checked another big career goal off the list by having my first byline in Marie Claire (about a 90s film I love, The Craft), a publication I’ve always wanted to write for. Yes, my writing here has been sparse because I have an entirely new vision for this blog that has me stockpiling material, but also because I’ve been focused on freelance writing full-time, which is a non-stop hustle. With that point, I should make it clear that TTRO is not over, it is just on a semi-hiatus until I can turn it into something that represents me in my 30s instead of this old version of me in my 20s. I feel like when I post here I’m walking around in an old outfit that just looks silly on me now, so I’ve been holding back. But soon! An early 2017 launch is the goal, and things around here will be a lot more consistent (and hopefully very useful for you) come that time.

One last thing – by some strange and awesome twist of fate – after 7 years on Twitter I was finally able to get my name out from under someone sitting on the handle – so @lisa_TTRO is no longer. Now you can tweet me @lisalagace, which is the same as my Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Periscope names. Yay for consistency!

And finally, let me just say, one last time for the record, RIP Leonard. When I watched you perform live in 2009 it was one of those rare musical moments where I knew I was witnessing pure genius, a poet who understood our pain for us, made it somehow more tolerable.

“And even though it all went wrong, I’ll stand before the Lord Of Song, with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah.”

 Lisa

The New Sony Audio in the Ford Explorer is Incredible

2016 ford explorer sony audio

The way technology is changing vehicles is quite a thing to witness. The connected car is a thing of brilliance and beauty. As if our lives weren’t simple enough, now our cars are as useful as our smartphones.

Well, I didn’t think it could get much better – but the fact is – when it comes to audio, most cars have a decent system, but there is usually room for improvement.

Lucky for us, Ford figured out how to reach the pinnacle of car audio perfection by teaming up with Sony while they were designing their new 2016 Ford Explorer Platinum.

The new Premium Audio System by Sony includes 12 high-quality speakers in 10 areas throughout the car, including sub-woofers – meaning your car has a surround sound system – so everyone in the car gets the same epic sound quality experience (yes even way at the back).

I had a chance to test drive the car and it was almost comparable to concert quality sound – the Clear Phase and Live Acoustic technology ensures there is limited distortion (no matter how loud you blast it), which is key for those long highway drives when all you want to do is singalong at the top of your lungs to Springsteen to make the trip go by faster.

During the launch, myself and a group of bloggers were invited to the Sony Centre to check out the car while also experiencing the concert sound of the Sony Centre, to compare. It’s crazy to me how they were able to capture that live sound experience within the vehicle.

While I wouldn’t normally see the band Magic! out of my own volition, it was super fun to have a private show put on for the very small group of us, in a venue as large as the Sony Centre.

Sidenote – we also stopped for dinner at Pravda Vodka Bar for dinner – which, as a Vodka girl – I had always been meaning to try out. If you’re looking for a great date spot in Toronto, this is the place. Their drink menu is my dream drink menu.

Beyond the brilliant audio, the car itself is beautiful. It’s the largest vehicle I’ve ever driven, which normally would intimidate me, but with SYNC doing its job, and all the other perks it comes with, I was more than happy to drive this SUV around the city. The greatest perk of all might be the massaging seats. I’ve had heated seats before – but this takes it to another level. I get serious lower back pain from time to time and having this option was truly a blessing.

What can’t this car do? Seriously. If you want to impress your relatives this holiday, drive up in one of these. Everyone will want to take turns testing it out.Lisa

6 Tips To Make Holiday Travel Easier

holiday travel hacks

Today’s guest post comes just in time for the brutal Christmas holiday travels you are about to endure next week. Here are 6 key things to keep in mind before you get on that plane, train, bus, or in the car to visit your family – from Jennifer Scott: 

Holiday traveling is the stuff that nightmares are made of…if you’re a pessimist, that is. If you’re an optimist, on the other hand, busy, chaotic holiday travel is a perfect opportunity to have a little fun and enjoy the ride – literally.

Whether you’re an eternal optimist looking for some fun ways to spice up a long journey this holiday season or a stressed-out parent riddled with anxiety over the potential tantrums your kids might have in a (very) public space in the next few weeks, these tips will help you create the most memorable (and enjoyable) holiday travel experience of your life.

Stock Up on Snacks. Lots of Snacks.

Yep, snacks are a must. Diet or no diet, there are plenty of appetizing, portable eats that can calm your nerves or at least give you something to do if you’re forced to spend a few idle hours waiting in an airport or riding in a car. And if you prefer a special kind of creamer or milk for your caffeine fix, make sure you bring an ample supply. Of course, if you’re traveling by air, your options are a bit more limited, but do what you can to keep yourself fueled to avoid any “hangriness” among your travel companions.

Download Some Useful Apps in Advance.

There are a variety of fun, entertaining, and even useful apps to help you find what you need and pass the time while you’re traveling over the holidays. But make sure to download them before you go – you know, while you’re on Wi-Fi and not burning up your precious data – so there’s no waiting for an app to download when you need an instant distraction during your journey.

Plan Some Quality Time…Apart.

The whole point of traveling together over the holidays is to spend tons of quality time with family and friends. But too many people who aren’t used to living under the same roof suddenly sparring over shower time can quickly lead to rising tensions. That’s why it’s a good idea to plan not only for quality time with your loved ones, but ample time for everyone to have their own space so your family members are slightly less inclined to have an impromptu fist fight over the turkey.

Skip Staying with Relatives and Make It a Mini-Vacation.

Because there are fewer business travelers, it might be possible to book a posh hotel on the cheap over the holidays. So if staying with your Aunt Susan and her obnoxious teenagers isn’t the most fun-filled way to spend a holiday, turn it into a mini-adventure and stay in a hotel, B&B, or vacation rental home instead of with family. Probably a good idea to pick a lodging option within a reasonable distance of your family so you can still make an appearance at family gatherings, unless of course you’re going for the absence-makes-the-heart-grow-fonder effect.

Don’t Sweat Layovers.

If you’re flying to your destination this holiday season and your journey involves a connecting flight or two, a lengthy layover could be in your future. Typically, layovers – especially unexpected layovers – are a source of massive frustration for travelers. But here’s the good news: Airports can be a whole lot of fun these days, with fancy restaurants, classy shops, and even day spa services. Make the most of whatever time you end up hanging around an airport by making it part of your adventure.

Don’t be a stick in the mud when it comes to holiday travel. It’s all part of the fun, with every misstep an opportunity to create memories that will last a lifetime. Planning only goes so far. With a go-with-the-flow attitude and a willingness to think outside the normal holiday rules (that you likely impose on yourself), holiday travel can be something to look forward to each year.

If You’re Travelling with Kids, Keep them Entertained.

Traveling with kids is a challenge all on its own, but with a lighthearted attitude you can make it fun for everyone. Silly games, such as scavenger hunts or license-plate “I Spy” games, sing-a-longs, and story time sessions can pass the time and distract antsy passengers from the fact that you won’t be “there yet” for at least six more hours.

If you’re flying, be sure to bring plenty of distractions. Books, a tablet loaded with kid games and apps, and DVDs all serve as great ways to keep little ones entertained on long flights. You might also bring along their favorite blanket and a pillow so that they can take a nap when they’re ready for a rest. Just be sure the carry-on you pack all these distractions in meets the luggage size requirements set by your airline.

Jennifer Scott is a lifelong sufferer of anxiety and depression. She created her website, SpiritFinder.org, as a platform for advocacy on opening up about mental health. Through the site, she hopes to share the steps and success stories that can help others realize their own power. When she isn’t working on her website, she enjoys traveling, working with animals, and seeking out new friendships and adventures.

 

 Lisa

Exploring Ford Sync With The Hunt Challenge

ford escape sync 3 review

As summer 2015 came to an end, the people at Ford decided to create an epic event to showcase their latest development, Ford’s Sync 3.

The new touch screen technology in their Escape allows you to easily navigate the city, call anyone in your contacts, change radio stations (or play your music from Spotify), hear text messages, and so much more – hands free.

The event began with a group of influencers coming together at Rock Lobster for a private, delicious lobster roll lunch, where we were paired up with another blog team to take on #TheHunt – a challenge a la The Amazing Race – where we jumped into the new Ford Escapes and, with a list of tasks in hand to complete in just 2 hours, we raced to complete as many challenges as possible.

I brought my sister, Rose, along for the journey, and we were paired with Tiffany and Margaux from Zencity.

Being the introvert that I am, at first I didn’t love the idea of being paired with strangers for the race, but it turned out it was a match made in heaven as they were just as competitive as we were, and they’re also super smart, sweet girls attending Ryerson, with a killer sense of style, so it was a fun day.

ford escape sync interior

Our competitive spirit led to earning 3rd place out of maybe 10 teams (?) which we thought was pretty great, considering we never once cheated by splitting up to complete tasks.

After the challenge was over we drove to the Big Crow for a fabulous BBQ dinner, and then it was time to drink. There’s nothing like an open bar after a day of adrenaline pumping competition.

While the point of the challenges was to get us familiar with Sync and how many great features it has to help out in just about any situation, it was the creativity of this event that really stuck with me. Too often, bloggers get invited to events with the intent to promote a new product and yes there might be food or an open bar, but that’s about it. I applaud the incredible PR team at National for coming up with something this unique, while also giving us a chance to experience the product features in action.

ford sync 3 review

As for the car itself, I chose to let Tiffany do the driving during the race as we figured it would save time if only one person drove (competitive, right?) but I took it home this past Thanksgiving weekend, and I can’t rave about it enough.

I’ll admit I am known for my bad habit of radio channel flipping (ask anyone who’s ever been in a car with me while I’m driving, or sitting passenger). It’s one of the only stupid things I do when driving, because I can’t bear to listen to a bad song when I know there are all those other stations out there that might be playing a better one.

Being able to just say the name of the channel I want to listen to and have it change to that station is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me, car wise. My eyes stayed on the road at all times, and I got to switch songs as much as I pleased.

Other amazing features include a camera for backing up, a beeping notification if you’re getting too close to an object (talk about avoiding bumps and scratches), heated seats, hands free (!!) parallel parking, and for an SUV – it only cost me $39 to fill up – which means it is incredibly fuel efficient.

If you’re in search of an inspired connected car, this is one worth taking out for a test drive.

 Lisa

Closing Out Summer At The Races

mohawk racetrack metro pace

This past weekend, I headed out to Mohawk Racetrack for the final time this season. If you missed my behind the scenes post last month, it’s worth checking out.

I had such a blast learning about everything that goes into horse-racing this summer at the track, and look forward to using my new-found betting skills to win big next year (or you know, bet a few dollars and have some more fun with friends).

If you have any questions about placing a bet, or how it all works, I’m now a pro and can fill you in on everything (okay not really, but I have a pretty decent grasp on it).

Before this summer, I had no idea how much fun a day at the races could be. I had no idea how to properly bet. I had no idea about the work that goes into maintaining these horses, and all the people required to make these races happen. I thought it was a sport for old men with gambling problems.

Turns out it is actually quite the affordable family event – especially at Mohawk – where I noticed many families at the larger events. Kids may not understand the dynamics of betting, but they can certainly appreciate eating BBQ on a warm summer night while watching some gorgeous horses run the track at full speed. And the free entry doesn’t hurt, either.

Horse racing is an exciting sport, and it makes for a fun group activity – one that us city kids wouldn’t normally think to do. Next time you’re looking for night out that’s a little different, suggest to your pals a quick trip out to Milton to have some fun betting at Mohawk. While you’re there, you can hit up the slots too. It’s kind of the perfect bachelor/bachelorette party idea.

And don’t forget – the season doesn’t close until the end of September so you still have a chance to win that $1000 gift card! ‪#‎OffToTheRaces‬

 Lisa