Dog Ownership Basics – 5 Cold Weather Pet Safety Tips

I've been thinking...Having a dog in your life is, in my opinion, one of the most rewarding relationships you can get into. Whether you are having a great day or a horrible one, your little furry buddy is there wagging his tail as soon as you glance in his direction and he asks for very little in return for his unconditional love and affection. I strongly believe that the decision to bring home a pet should not be taken lightly. It will require a lot of your time, money and attention; specially in the first several months. There will be obligatory vet visits, house breaking, obedience training as well as deciding on the type of diet to feed him, time for walks, time for burning energy, grooming and so much more. The best advice I can give you is to lay it all out on paper before you actually bring a dog home and then, once you feel confident in your plan, go for it; you will not regret it. One thing you should definitely consider in that plan is how you will take care of your pal during the harsh winter months. Dogs, just like human are very sensitive to extreme temperatures. Some are a little more adapted then others but that does not mean they should be left to fend for themselves in freezing or scorching conditions. Taking on the responsibility of owning a pet of any kind should mean you will provide them with the best possible food, water, shelter, care and attention but unfortunately, that is not always true and many animals pay the price for our negligence. Provided I have not totally scared you off yet, I'm here to offer a little help when it comes to owning a pet if you live in an area where it seems like half of the year is covered in snow. Here is my list of 5 Cold Weather Pet Safety Tips.

Tip number one is to know your pet's limits. Just like us, dog's love to play in the snow. Some breeds are better adapted to it than others and depending on the coat, fat stores, size and activity level of your dog, you should be able to determine when it is time for him to come back inside. Now, I know some of you think dog's do not belong in the house and you are entitled to your opinion but I believe it is my responsibility as a pet owner to provide him with the best possible shelter and that means he gets the same treatment I do...Inside the house. So look for the signs you would recognize in yourself; shivering, tucking paws, change in demeanor and do not leave him out in the cold any longer than you have to.

Tip number two Is to check their paws. One of the most exposed areas on your dog is his paws. In extreme cold weather or if you live in an area that uses road salt and other deicers it is imperative that you protect their paws and check them often for cracks or injuries. There are several options available to protect their paws and we find the best to be a good paw wax. It can be used as prevention as well as treatment and is very easy to make at home using some very simple ingredients.  A simple google search will give you hundreds of recipes.  As an alternative, you might prefer to use commercial dog boots but be careful, most of the low-cost options will only frustrate you as your canine friend kicks them off within the first two minutes.  Look for ones that have zippered fronts and velcro strap up top, they tend to have less stretch and are usually a lot harder to catapult into the abyss...

Tip number three is to dress him up. Ok, probably not the most popular one in the list, especially for us guys but if you want to extend the length of time your pooch can stay out in the cold; dress him up. Long haired or thick coated dogs such as malamutes don't necessarily need it but if your dog has really short hair like our boxer mix does, you need to dress him up to go outside. There as so many commercial options available now it's almost as bad as shopping for kids but that is not the point. Anything you can use to keep your dog's body heat from escaping too quickly would work. You could use old sweat shirts or, if you are handy with a sewing machine, design and create your own; there is no limit to make sure your buddy stays warm.

Tip number four is to wipe down. If you live in an area that uses road salt and other deicers, your dog's feet, legs and belly will pick up some of these chemicals that can potentially be harmful and even toxic to him. When you come back from a walk or an activity where he may have come in contact with these chemicals make sure to thoroughly wipe down these areas using a damp cloth. You will be avoiding expensive vet bills as well as keeping your sanity by eliminating all kinds of dirt and sand from your floors.

Finally, tip number five is to avoid ice. One of the most common pet injuries during winter times is broken nails or bones due to bad slips on ice. As I said before, dogs love to play in the snow and sometimes that means running over a patch of ice. If you can prevent them from doing that by carefully selecting the area where they can let loose and play then you will be one step closer to having a successful outing with your buddy.

Overall, pet safety comes down to one thing; caring. If you care for your animal you will do everything in your power to make sure he is safe and comfortable. I hope these 5 Cold Weather Safety Tips help you on your journey to pet ownership and invite you to leave a comment if you have any questions.

Thanks for Reading!

Achieving your Dreams 101: The lost art of Focus

I've been thinking; how does a thirty-eight year old man who has always been full of dreams ever get to achieve any of them? There are tons of books outlining a million different strategies on the subject I am sure but how do you know they will work for you? I am no expert on achieving my dreams but I have tried a lot of techniques and out of everything I have come across, there is one that keeps coming back in one form or another and it just so happens that it is the one that always make me feel like I can almost touch my dreams. It is the lost art of Focus; the ability to ignore all distractions getting thrown at you on a daily basis and zone in on what it is you want most in your life.

The problem most of us face is that we are really good at focusing for a few hours. Some even manage to keep it for a few days or weeks, but eventually, something urgent comes up and manages to send our dreams to the back of our mind. We usually tell ourselves: "I'll come back to it after I take care of this." or "Maybe it wasn't really for me, maybe this is what I should do?" It does not matter what the reason is, if you don't Focus on your dream and make it your number one priority on the daily, you will go through your life always wanting and never satisfied.

Focus is a skill. And like any other skill, it can be improved over time with practice and determination. Start with setting yourself a small goal that you can achieve in one day and focus on it until it is complete. That way you can experience a win and start to build some confidence in yourself. Keep building on that, gradually increasing the size of the goal and the amount of time for completion. Before you know it you will find yourself in a totally different place.

Simple right? Well, if it was that easy everybody would be at their peak. Unfortunately, our lives glitter with distractions. Beeps and buzzes, emergencies, promotions, accidents, weather, etc... All very valid reasons to lose our Focus and if we do nothing about it, any one of them could be the very reason our dreams are still only dreams. Thankfully, there is something to be done. No one should go through life reacting to every distraction that comes along and all that is required is to make a conscious decision to be proactive instead of reactive. If you accept the fact that distractions will come your way and plan accordingly, focusing on your dreams and prioritizing your time; you will soon become unstoppable.

Focus by definition, means having clear visual definition. It is imperative that you have a clear vision of where or what you want if you are ever going to be able to Focus on it. It is impossible for anyone to Focus on fog, but you would be hard pressed to find someone who could tell you at a moments notice what they want out of their lives. Having a clear visual definition implies that you know exactly what you want, how it smells, what it sounds like, what it tastes like and how much it costs. Write it down, draw it out, collect magazine clippings,  do your research, but more importantly; keep it in your face.  In today's world, distractions are everywhere so it just goes hand in hand that your dream should also be everywhere.  Specially with all the technology that is available.  If you can learn to harness that technology and make it work for you, you will come out ahead of the game.  Mobile apps like Pinterest make it easy and even "cool" to create vision boards. Others can help you connect with like-minded people; on or offline. It is important to remember however that these are tools and like any other tool, they are meant to be used in a certain way. Don't get lost in a never-ending spiral of YouTube videos or looking at pictures for 3 hours. Prioritize your time and allow yourself some time to build up your vision but don't get stuck in the vision building process.

All of these things are meant to help you get to your dreams.  They are tips that work but only if you are willing to put in the work.  Focus is one thing but it means noting if you do nothing.  It is simply a key that unlocks the power of action.  Take some time to clearly define what it is that you want, give  the lost art of Focus a chance and get to work.

 

 

Top 5 DIY Things to Get Your Car Ready for Winter

Top Five DIY Things to Get Your Car Ready for Winter

I've been thinking...Fall is upon us in full force and it brings along with it a host of things that need to be addressed with your car. In Canada, fall is a very short-lived season and it is the perfect time to get your ride ready for the harsh winter that is never too far behind. Here is my list of the top five DIY things to get your car ready for winter.

1. Get a good set of winter tires and rims.
2. While your wheels are off, check your brakes.
3. Get a good set of new wiper blades.
4. Change your engine oil and filter along with the air and cabin air filters.
5. Make sure all your fluids are topped-up and winter ready.

First on the list is to get yourself a good set of winter tires and rims. For the longest time I have fought this line of thought because I could not justify spending that amount of money to replace a perfectly good set of tires. The worst part about it is that I would use the craziest of excuses like, winter tires are noisy and harder on gas or I don't like the way they make my car look. The fact of the matter is that winter tires just make sense. They remain softer at lower temperatures which allows for better traction, improved steering control and reduced braking distances. Getting them mounted on a good set of rims just makes them easier to switch back and forth as the seasons change. It also allows you to save money in the long run as you can do this yourself instead of paying someone else to do it.  Now, before you go out there and hurt yourself, there are a few things worth noting. You will need a few tools to get this done and no this cannot happen with the tools you have to throw on your spare tire. You will need a good floor jack and safety stands as well as some basic hand tools.  Safety is super important here so don't rush through it. If you are not sure how to do this, please watch this video before you get started.

 

While you have the wheels off, it is the best time to get number two on our list done.  Checking your car's brakes can be a life saver, specially just before winter.  You want to make sure that your brake pads have enough life left to last you through the winter but more importantly, you want to check how they are performing.  A healthy brake system should have pads wearing evenly on both sides of the rotor (large metal disc) as well as  from top to bottom.  If you notice one is not as thick as the other or is super worn on one end and thick at the other, it is a sign that something is not right and you should bring your vehicle to a trusted mechanic for a brake system service.  

 

Coming in at number three on my list is to get yourself a solid set of new wiper blades.  Now is the best time to go out and get them because it will be a lot easier than doing this in the slushy snow after you've realized you need them.   There is nothing worse than getting on the road and turning on the wipers only to find out you can't see out of windshield anymore.  It is very dangerous and frankly irresponsible.

 

 

The fourth thing you should do before winter is to get your engine oil and filter changed along with the engine and cabin air filters.  Fall is a difficult time for your car's air filters, all the dust from pollen and falling leaves gets clogged up in there and your engine struggles to get air while your heater is having a hard time defrosting your windshield.  Getting all that done before winter ensures that your car is in it's best possible shape to handle whatever comes its way.

Finally, you want to make sure all your fluids are topped up and winter ready.  This means you want to check all fluid levels (refer back to your owner's manual to find the location).  You also want to make sure they are winter ready.  Most oils, like engine, transmission, brake and power steering are good,  you want to direct your attention to the other fluids which contain water such as your coolant and your windshield washer fluid.  This last one usually has a temperature rating on the bottle so just make sure you pay attention to what you are pouring in there.  The engine coolant however is a little different, you will need to test the strength using a coolant tester which will tell you level of freeze protection you can expect from your coolant.  Depending on the results, you might want to add pure antifreeze or water into your system.

With that, we have come to the end of my top five DIY things to get your car ready for winter.  I hope this article inspires you to get out there and get things done.  When we get on the winter's treacherous roads we can all breathe a little easier knowing our cars are at the peak of their game.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Car Ownership Basics – Top 10 Things to Know Before You Hit the Road

I've been thinking...One of the most appealing characteristics of urban living has to be how everything is so accessible. It does however, create unhealthy habits of consumerism. So many people coast through their life having no clue of how the things they use on a daily basis work. Personally,  I have always been the curious type, taking things apart to see how they work and putting them back together is who I am to my core. Consequently, I have developed a passion for cars and lately, it seems to me that more and more people are driving around oblivious of their cars basic functions.   All around me I see people with no headlights on after dark or with their windshields full of condensation from the A/C.  My intention is that this be the start of a series on car ownership basics where I can share with you some of the knowledge I have accumulated over the years. 

When it comes to owning a car, your most important resource is your owner's manual. Everything you need to know about your car is hidden somewhere in there. The first thing you should do then, is to get familiar with it. You will find great information on how to program your radio, how to turn your lights on, where the power outlets are situated and you'll also learn how your A/C and heater work. But that's not it; in this amazing piece of literature, there is also everything you ever need to know about the proper maintenance of your vehicle, what the manufacturer suggests for oil change intervals and the correct tire size for your vehicle. I have always found it crazy how people will read the instruction manual to build a $300 BBQ but when it comes to their $40 000 car they just "wing it"

Having worked in the automotive industry for over 20 years now, I think it is safe for me to say that I have driven many different cars. I have a ton of experience with them but when I purchased my new car a few months ago, the first thing I did was to go through my owner's manual. My wife was mocking me about it but I can assure you that I found things in there I didn't know were possible with my car.  She has since stopped the teasing because I was able to show her how she can automatically tilt the passenger side mirror while parking in reverse.  A feature she uses regularly.    So don't wait until you are driving down the road at ninety kilometres an hour before you need to figure out how your wipers work. There are enough things that require your attention that  you don't need to do these things while driving. Take a few minutes and go through my list for the top ten things you should know about your car before hitting the road.  The answers to these questions can be found in your Owner's Manual and having this list will make it a lot easier for you to do so.

1. How do you adjust the driver's seat and seat-belt?
2. How do you adjust the side mirrors?
3. How do you adjust the steering wheel?
4. How do you turn the lights ON and OFF?
5. How do you turn the wipers ON and OFF?
6. How do you use the A/C and Heater controls?
7. How do you apply and release the emergency/parking brake?
8. How do you lock and unlock your doors?
9. How do you turn the hazard and turn signals ON and OFF?
10. How do you start your engine?

I recommend that you sit in your car as you familiarize yourself with these ten things. That way you can put into practice as you read and commit it to memory a lot better. Once you are comfortable with these things then you are ready to move on to the fun stuff; Driving! Do keep in mind however that driving is a privilege and not a right and if you don't obey the rules then that privilege can very easily be taken away. Just to be clear, I am not getting up on my soap box and condemning everyone as if I have no faults. I am merely speaking from very difficult experience. I learned this lesson the hard way and I hope to help you avoid this long and very expensive journey. There are too many people driving the roads today who believe they somehow own it and can do whatever they want on it. I assure you this is not the case, and sooner or later they will either get caught or hurt someone.

I hope I am not being too harsh but I feel like driving should be relaxing and enjoyable not make me want to pull my hair out. That being said, I realize people have places to go and that sometimes we are running a little late. That is no reason to be unsafe and pull crazy manoeuvres and put everybody else's life in danger. Too many times, I have seen people weaving in and out of traffic, burning through red lights, using turning lanes or the shoulder to get ahead.  It is dangerous and irresponsible. Take your time, get to know your car, leave a little earlier and respect the rules as well as the other drivers. That way, nobody gets hurt, your wallet is a little happier at the gas pump and the police doesn't have to chase you to give you a ticket or even worse, take away your driving privilege and even possibly your freedom.

As I said in the beginning of this post, I want to make this into a series of posts about car ownership basics where we can dive a little deeper into the subject.  So keep an eye out over the coming weeks for these and much more.

Thanks for reading!

Home Canning; Why we do it and why you should start.

I've been thinking...If we are going to move out of the city to start a homestead, there will be a certain set of skills we will need to develop in order to adapt to this new lifestyle and Home Canning is probably one of the most important ones.

Growing up in northern Ontario meant you didn't always have access to the freshest produce but when you did manage to get your hands on some, you had to find a way to preserve it so your family could enjoy them during the harsh winter months. I still remember the taste of my grandmother's field strawberry jam and it brings back some of my fondest childhood memories. When I met my wife Tessa, I soon found out that traditions were very similar in her family as well. Her mother was the queen of canning; she canned everything from fruits and veggies to meats and soup starters but the best was her canned spaghetti sauce. Her basement was always packed full of mason jars and she constantly made extra food so she could can the left overs.

I believe our ancestors had a scarcity mentality, and that is why they were always prepared for the eventuality that fresh food is not always available. Urban living and consumerism have made it so we rely more on the grocery store than on our own ability to produce food. That's all fine as long as the system keeps working but what if stops. We have all felt the effects of extreme droughts on the west coast or hurricanes in the southern United States. What happens when minimum wage increases to a point where all of our basic services get inflated and become no longer affordable. Think about it.

In starting our journey to self-sufficient living, Tessa and I realized we were going to have to make some changes to our current lifestyle. Just as everyone else in the city, we often find ourselves forgoing meal planning for a quick stop at our local grocery store for dinner or worse ordering in some take-out. Don't get me wrong, it is super convenient and fun to do that, but when we do, we always go over budget and we don't really eat as healthy as we should. When we decide to move out of the city, that will not an option for us any longer. We took a step back to find solutions and quickly realized that we already had the perfect example to follow. We started asking questions, reading books and with a little trial and error found that home canning was not that difficult.

First of all, you don't need a lot of equipment. Canning jars are available everywhere. We were lucky because my mother-in-law's favorite gift was to give a few cases of canned spaghetti sauce or a few of canned pea soup. When we wanted to return the empty jars, she would always tell us to keep them; you never know when they will come in handy she said. Besides the jars, all you really need is an oven, a few pots and you are in business.

Second, anybody can do it. All you need is a little can-do attitude and you're all set. We started canning in our little 700 sq. ft. apartment. Slowly gaining some experience, trying out different methods and canning all kinds of things. We have made dill pickles, canned peaches, pickled carrots, spaghetti sauce and a lot more but the best part is that we have a ton of fun doing it together. If you have been on the fence about canning or are afraid to try it, the best advice we can give you is go for it. What's the worst that can happen really?

We have yet to find any disadvantages to home canning; in the long run it produce less garbage, currently we are supporting our local farmers because we don't yet have our own garden. We have good food to enjoy all year round and we know exactly what goes into it. Another benefit we found was that we started developing a community. Whether it's from gifts we give away or from talking with our local farmers, like-minded people tend to find each other and this is no exception, in our book, that is a win.

I am aware that not everyone is brought up as we were and that is why I think it is important for me to write this article. Tessa and I believe strongly in self-sufficient living and want to use our journey to help teach others about the benefits of this alternative lifestyle. The best resource we have is a book published by the Canadian company Bernardin called Guide to Home Preserving. It is available by clicking the link below or at your local store that sells home canning equipment. Pick up a copy, it covers all the basics to get you started, gives you a few recipes and explains the different canning methods. Get started today, I know you will enjoy the fruits of your labor, literally.

Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving Canning Kit

Finally, if you have any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to contact us. It will be our pleasure to help you in any way we can.

Thank you for reading!