How many times can you do the coffee-shop date before you start to feel like you're interviewing candidates to fill the position of "mate" rather than genuinely getting to know someone? If you really want to get a sense of someone's personality -- and bring out more of those intriguing qualities that attracted you to them in the first place -- think beyond the comforts of your local coffee shop.
Let the autumn air inspire you to take in a new activity with the person you're getting to know. Consider these five date ideas:
1. Community festivals It seems like every neighbourhood is jumping on the "Taste of..." bandwagon these days. At community festivals you'll get to experience a new area together, enjoy the crisp autumn weather, do some people-watching and have the opportunity to try food from local restaurants without it costing a fortune. Bonus: You get your date's unfiltered responses to things like children, dogs and people who push their dogs around in strollers.
"You can really tell a lot about a person from the way they react in crowds. A scenario like this would be great for a date: Does the time in lineups with them pass quickly? Are they patient, fun-loving or, greedy with the freebie food samples?" -- Erin, 32
2. Farmer's markets It's impossible not to be inspired by stalls full of delicious baked treats, fresh herbs and produce, and especially those perfectly crunchy fall apples. Find out each other's favourite foods just by touring around the farmer's market, and if things are going well you're armed with all the info you need to impress with that meal you're going to cook on your next date.
"I consider myself a ‘foodie,' so I could go on all day about pesticides, choosing organic and how important it is to eat locally. Taking a date to the market lets me get a sense of their values and if they're compatible with mine." -- Gavin, 35
Page 1 of 2 -- Visit a local fair or flea market, and why not take in an outdoor game of football too? Find these great date ideas on page 2 3. Fairs Local fairs are a great place to take someone you don't know very well because they invoke so much nostalgia and are rife with great conversation starters.
First tastes of cotton candy, first time on a ferris wheel and the first time you ever won a stuffed animal by playing Skeeball are all possible topics that will get you to open up and share with your date, and vice versa. There are also opportunities to impress with your Whack-a-Mole skills, and unavoidable full-body contact in the Tilt-a-Whirl.
"This is a good first date because there is so much going on that it would take the pressure off any awkward silent moments, plus who doesn't like games and junk food?" -- Sarah, 30
4. Outdoor spectator sports Whether it's college football or high school soccer, there's something magical about an outdoor stadium that truly embodies the spirit of fall -- getting out the bright-coloured knitted scarves, huddling under a shared blanket in the bleachers, sipping cider from a Thermos, and not really caring about the outcome.
Conversation will flow naturally as you discuss the intricacies of the game, learn and chant the team cheers together, and enjoy delicious stadium hotdogs.
"If my date just wanted to focus on the game the entire time, I'd be bored. But if they were OK with chatting the whole way through about various things, then I'd definitely enjoy it." -- Frankie, 35
5. Flea markets Handmade crafts, historical artifacts and strange collections are get-to-know-you gold. You never even have to set foot in you date's apartment to discover that the object of your affection has an extensive assortment of antique books or original Nintendo games, both of which can be found for sale here. It's also an excellent opportunity to show off your haggling skills and do your best Canadian Pickers impression.
"I like this idea because there's so much opportunity for joking around when you're looking at odd junk. You would find out right away if you and your date had a similar sense of humour." -- Wesley, 33
The fall is a great time to change up your dating routine and try something new. So if you want to get to know someone new, or even want to spend quality time with a long-term beau, consider an unexpected location for your next fall date.
With the growing trend of love blending with technology, there are a variety of online dating sites with mobile apps that are helping connect more people. Whether you're looking for a casual encounter or something more serious, there’s a dating app to suit almost every need. Here are seven top dating apps for you to consider.
1. OkCupid (free for both iPhone and Android devices) This popular online dating site also has a location-based mobile app that allows you to take your experience on the go. Users can sign in via Facebook or directly through the app to find local singles. The app allows you to watch the activity stream for potential matches, "favourite" a profile and rate your potential matches through the Quick Match feature. With over five million registered users since 2010, you never know whom you might find.
2. Match (available on iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices) Match.com, a pioneer dating website that launched in 1995, has users based in 24 countries around the world. People can sign up through Match.com and then download the app on their mobile devices. The app allows members to view profiles, upload up to 24 images, add users to their "Favourites" and rate their "Daily Matches." Subscriptions range anywhere from a month to a year. Pick one that suits you best.
3. eHarmony (available for iPhone and Android devices) This popular online dating site launched in 2000. Its claim to fame? Over one million people who used eHarmony went on to find lifelong partnerships. Users can sign up via the app, complete a relationship questionnaire, upload photos from their mobile phones or from Facebook, and receive daily matches—all free of charge. Paid subscribers get access to email and can also see who has viewed their profiles. It's the perfect app for those of all ages who are looking for long-term commitments. 4. Badoo (free for both iPhone and Android devices) With a community of more than 208 million users, Badoo is perfect for those looking to socialize and meet new people. The free basic service allows users to chat with and message other members, and upload photos and videos. Members can sign in with a Badoo or Facebook account via the mobile app or website to connect with locals who share common interests. The app also features a fun game called Encounters, which allows users to view potential matches and then tap "yes" or "no" to indicate whether or not they would like to meet. If you're not looking to date, Badoo is also a great app for social networking and friendship.
5. Plenty of Fish (free for both iPhone and Android devices) Plenty of Fish (POF) allows users to find potential dates and perhaps even their soul mates for free! It does have paid services as well, but users don't really need to upgrade; most of the best features such as Meet Me, which allows members to flirt with locals in their areas, are free of charge. This app allows users to search for singles using filters such as education, height, religious affiliations and body type. Another cool feature is Date Night, which tells other singles in your area that you're available for a date.
6. Zoosk (free for both iPhone and Android devices) Zoosk is one of the top mobile dating apps for iPhone users and is one of the Top 10 grossing social networking apps in the iTunes store. This app is available for free and also has a paid subscription option that allows you to access more features. If you’d rather not pay, you can still browse millions of singles, create a profile, upload photos, see who has viewed your profile, and scan and show interest in another member by using the Carousel feature.
7. Tinder (free for both iPhone and Android devices) Tinder has quickly become the go-to dating app for young adults. And the best part? The app is completely free and works on the premise of anonymity. Users, who need a Facebook account to create a profile, can upload up to six profile photos and scroll through recommended matches from your area. If you don't like what you see, you can anonymously "like" or "pass" on the person. But it isn't just for the younger demographic: Tinder reports that 31 percent of its users are aged between 25 and 34, making it a great app for anyone looking to casually date or form potentially long-term relationships.
Whip up a dozen moist muffins on a leisurely Sunday morning. Or better yet, set out the muffin recipe ingredients the night before and let the first person up bake a batch for everyone. Most of these muffin recipes can be made in advance and frozen.
Ginger may not be the first spice you think of to incorporate in your snacks, salads and dinners but it's one of the healthiest on the planet! Here's why:
1. It's healthy for your heart.
Research has shown that ginger may lower cholesterol and help prevent blood clotting, which could, in turn, help prevent blood vessel blockages that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.
A recent study out of Pennsylvania State University found that a meal made with a spice blend that included ginger (along with garlic, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, paprika, turmeric and black pepper) reduced levels of triglycerides by 30 percent when compared to an identical non-spiced meal.
2. It helps your tummy!
Ginger has long been associated with relieving nausea and morning sickness, motion sickness, and even menstrual pain, as it's original use was for pain relief. A 2012 study shored up that wisdom, showing that ginger can reduce nausea after chemotherapy when taken as a supplement.
3. It can help you breathe easy. Ginger tea is a classic remedy purported to ease cough and cold symptoms. And it turns out, there’s some science to its soothing powers when you’re sick. In 2013, research out of Columbia University found that ginger might help asthma patients breathe more easily.
4. It has anti-inflammatory effects.
Osteoarthritis causes joint pain and stiffness, but the anti-inflammatory effects of ginger can help that. In a trial done by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, participants who took ginger extract had less pain and needed less pain medication than those who didn't.
*Although rare, too much ginger can cause heartburn, diarrhea and irritation of the mouth, according to the University of Maryland. There can also be interactions with medications, such as acetylsalicylic acid.
Empty shopping bags, broken chairs, stacks and stacks of magazines—when writer Christina Gonzales realized her mom might be a hoarder, she went to the experts to find out how she could help, and repaired their relationship in the process.
At my mother's apartment, there are a lot of unspoken rules. "Don't open the kitchen cabinets" is one of them. I've only ever used one cupboard, which is right above the sink and houses the sieve, a few large ceramic bowls and the few packs of ramen noodles that haven't yet gone bad. I try not to ask my mom what's in the rest of those cupboards, or why our pots and pans are piled beside the stove and our dishes never leave the drying rack. I brought up the subject once in aggravation when I moved back home two years ago to save money. "You're too much, Christina," she responded angrily. It instantly brought me back to my childhood.
When it all began
As a kid, I was close with my mother, despite her inability to let anything go. From the outside, our family looked normal, but when you opened the front door of our two-bedroom apartment, it was obvious something was different. There were rooms filled to the ceiling with souvenirs of our past: my first mattress from a twin-size bed I had outgrown years before, reusable shopping bags, pillows, suitcases, books, a lime-green swivel chair. My mom's dresser overflowed with so many accessories, half-used bottles of body lotion, old blush compacts and loose coins that you couldn't even see the wooden surface. A layer of dust covered everything, which meant she didn't use—or even touch—the stuff. I was humiliated that our home was so disorderly.
The clutter really began to accumulate when I was about 11 years old. My mom stopped inviting people to our home, and I stopped, too. My best friends in high school asked me why we'd never hang out at my place, and I did my best to dodge their questions. My frustration stemmed from jealousy (why couldn't my mom entertain the way other moms did?) and a fundamental difference in what we thought "home" should mean (I longed to live in a house filled with family and friends; she thought home should be a private retreat). I would cry, yell and plead with her to throw things away, until my teen years, when I started to distance myself emotionally from her. I knew that no matter what I said or did, I couldn't control my mother's hoarding, and it was easier to avoid her—and the subject of home—altogether.
When I moved back home at 28—I'd quit my day job to pursue a full-time freelance writing career, and my mom offered up my childhood bedroom as a way to save money—it didn't take long before we had our confrontation about the kitchen cupboards. But this time, I realized I didn't want the cycle to continue; the bitterness I'd carried with me for years had to cease in order for us to have a healthy relationship.
Understanding the problem
What I'd always found most challenging was that she couldn't see where I was coming from—she truly doesn't realize her belongings are piling up around her. Yet, she's unlike the people I've seen on the TLC show Hoarding: Buried Alive; she's physically healthy, she's about to retire from a successful career and she has an active social life. She's also been a giving, supportive and loving mother. So what's the deal? I approached several specialists to help give me insight into my mother's hoarding issue.
Dr. Peggy Richter, a psychiatrist and the director of the Frederick W. Thompson Anxiety Disorders Centre's Clinic for OCD and Related Disorders at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, says that, while their houses might not look like the ones on TV, an estimated two to five percent of Canadians suffer from compulsive hoarding disorder. Dr. Richter explains that hoarding is more than the inability to throw things out. "Rather, to be considered a clinical condition, it results in a significant accumulation that impacts the ability to use the space the way you would like or the way most people would," she says. "And people may try to minimize the impact. For example, maybe their kitchen is quite cluttered; they can still make breakfast, but they have piles in front of the oven, so they never use it anymore, though they claim they never did. Similarly, someone whose bed is too cluttered may claim that she prefers, and is more comfortable, sleeping on the couch."
Elaine Birchall, a social worker and hoarding behaviour and intervention specialist with clients in Ottawa and Toronto, says hoarders tend to save things for one of three main reasons: sentimental (this item represents my life and is part of me), intrinsic (this item is amazing and offers so many possibilities) or instrumental (I might need this someday). I think my mom is a sentimental hoarder. She once mentioned that her own mother discarded her childhood trophies and awards and that she wished she still had those things to help her reminisce. There's a certain glee she gets from pulling out an item that someone else would've thrown away long ago, like the cheerleading catalogue my now-40-year-old cousin was featured in when she was in high school in the '90s. "It's so nice. Maria was so pretty," she'd say.
Dr. Sheila Woody, a professor of psychology and psychology researcher at the University of British Columbia's Centre for Collaborative Research on Hoarding in Vancouver, shed some light on how to approach my mom's hoarding disorder respectfully and without judgment. "Making your mom's apartment a place you want to live is not an appropriate goal," says Dr. Woody, noting that people with hoarding disorders don't realize the impact of their mountains of possessions. I first needed to accept that this apartment would never become what I'd always perceived as the ideal home. There was one thing that I could change, though, and that was the usability of the space. "If you're trying to make it so that [your mom isn't] at risk of falling over when she's trying to reach something, or not at risk of setting the house on fire when she turns the stove on, that's a very reasonable goal," says Dr. Woody, who adds that it's also important for there to be adequate room to get out of the apartment in case of an emergency.
Finding common ground
To ensure that my mom's apartment was no longer a hazardous zone, I began to help her discard what Birchall calls the "easy wins": For some, these are nostalgia-free items (such as old toothbrushes and grimy shoes) and those that are unsanitary (like expired food); for others, they're items the person feels no extreme need to save. Birchall recommended I calmly ask my mom if we could relocate old things to make room for new items we'd actually use. I did it for the first time a few months ago, when I called her from the grocery store to ask if we had soy sauce. When my mom went and retrieved it, she told me that it was expired. "OK, I'll buy a new bottle, and you can ditch the old one," I responded. When I arrived home, it was sitting on the kitchen counter ready for disposal.
In my childhood, I would've taken the bottle down to the garbage chute that instant, a nonverbal signal that there was absolutely no reason to keep expired condiments. Now, I understand that getting rid of things causes her real distress. Instead of feeling exasperated and ashamed, all I felt this time was guilt. I realized that I'd been acting like a punishing drill sergeant, pushing my agenda onto my mother by barking at her to see things my way. And, according to Birchall, that's exactly the wrong approach. "Even when my patients want to hold on to genuine garbage, unless it's contaminated, I have to do my level best to make them see the reality of this," she says. "And even then, I don't just try to get someone to agree to let go of something; I try to understand what the importance of that item is to them."
So I didn't ask my mom when she planned on discarding the soy sauce; I knew it wasn't a sentimental item and that she was practical enough to understand it wasn't safe to consume. There was no fight, no power struggle, no "I'm right, and you're wrong." Rather, I gave her the space to decide when it was the right time—if there was a right time—to throw out the bottle. I tried my best to be patient, to have a stress-free conversation and to respect the value of my mom's belongings while holding firm to my boundaries within our shared space. It's a slow process, but it's effective. Showing compassion for my mom's feelings about her stuff makes it easier for her to let things go. When I push too much, we backtrack on any progress we've made. The day after our conversation, I walked into the kitchen and that old bottle of soy sauce was gone. It was a small step, but for me—and my mom—it was a breakthrough.
Social worker and hoarding specialist Elaine Birchall gives her best advice for helping a hoarder.
1. Complete a safety audit. Find the heat sources, such as electrical panels, fireplaces, hot water tanks, furnaces and stoves, and make sure there is a clearance of at least four feet around them, if space allows. The paths to those heat sources must also be free and clear in case of fire and should be at least 33 inches wide.
2. Create boundaries and limits, especially if you live in the same home as the hoarder. Build a positive co-tenant dynamic by defining who "owns" each room and what is allowed in each space. Common areas must be clear so that all tenants can use the space and have a social life.
3. Decide on permanent spaces. A permanent place is a storage area that makes sense for an item. For example, you'd never store canned goods under the bed—you'd put them in a kitchen cupboard or pantry. When choosing a permanent place, hold the item and close your eyes. Ask yourself, "Where is the first place I'd look for this?" That is where it should be.
4. Do your research. Rather than insisting that you know why the hoarder should part with an item, find an appropriate expert source. For example, if a hoarder wants to keep expired foods, go to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency; the organization's website will explain why it's unsafe to keep around.
5. Show respect. Don't apply pressure. Work at the hoarder's pace and don't diminish his or her feelings. Try to put yourself in that person's shoes by doing a mental tally of 20 possessions you love and imagining how you might feel if a family member made you throw them away.