Monday, June 30, 2008

Dear Bargainista #15 - buying a laptop bag

C. from Montreal writes:
I’m hoping to get over to Queen West to see my old place(s) and go shopping for a laptop bag when I’m in Toronto next week. You’d be appalled (simply appalled!!) that whenever I go out I just shove the thing in an ancient tote bag. I heard Crumpler was good. If you have any inside tips, I’m all ears!!

Take care. Hope all is well there!!
Dear C.,

I bought my first laptop (a macbook) in November and it doesn’t leave the house much. I just got a new laptop bag so I’ll be able to take it with me to events. (Yay!) I cheated though. Kate Trgovac gave me a two laptop bags that she reviewed on Squidoo.

Check out her Squidoo laptop bag lens. It held the number #1 spot on the entire site for quite some time and is still one of the top lenses.

The one I use one most often is from Flicka. It has big pink flowers and the black background. It’s great for conferences because it has a front pocket I can use to hold all the stuff I would otherwise carry in my purse.

I also have another laptop bag (that doubles as a sleeve) from Skooba Design. Check out Kate’s other Squidoo lens about laptop sleeves. Until last weekend, it was a blank canvas. Now it has a wonderful illustration on the front and some other interesting stuff. Stay tuned for an upcoming post with the details.

Dear Bargainista would love to hear from you too! Have a question about shopping, fashion or food? E-mail us.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wear BlackBars for instant anonimity

One of the first rules for parents who travel without their kids is to make sure and bring home gifts. But what does one buy in Kingston that you can’t buy at home in Toronto?

Well, thanks to Tommy Vallier, I didn’t have to think too hard. You see he and Francis Wooby helped guide guests at Podcasters Across Borders (PAB) around Kingston. I had no idea that included helping with gifts for the kids too – it did!

Tommy showed up for the pre-conference not only with bags for everyone but also with a cool pair of glasses called BlackBars from a Minotaur, a local gift store. For $10 a pair, I knew they were so ridiculous the kids would love them and I couldn’t resist.

If you’ve ever had flickrphobia (you know, when you’re afraid of having your mug appear on someone’s flickr or Facebook page) then these glasses are for you too. ;) BTW, they can also be purchased online at

What’s your favourite ridiculous gift?

photo credit (top photo): David Bailey MBE on flickr

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tip of the Week – serving beer the right way

It used to be I barely received pitches about anything. Now everyone is trying to pitch me all kinds of stuff ...

So, as a non-beer drinker you can imagine my surprise when I got an invitation to Brew 2.0 an event hosted by Molson. And what perfect timing, the night before the Canada Day weekend.

I accepted the invite, had good time and even drank a bit of beer, including a sneak preview of Kasteel Cru – a new Champagne-inspired sparkling beer from France. Watch for it’s Canadian release later this summer. I don’t really get the idea of a beer trying to masquerade as Champagne while still tasting like beer and with a bit more sparkle, but what do I know?

Well, I leaned more than I ever thought I wanted to know about beer and the brewing process. I even toured the Rickard’s microbrewery at Lord Stanley’s Mug at the ACC.

Until last night, I didn’t know there was such as thing as food and beer pairings. They’re just like food and wine pairings in that different types of beer are best suited to specific types of food. Ian Douglass really knows his stuff. He’s one of about 15 brew masters in Canada. For example, if you like strawberries and you like beer, keep an eye out for Kasteel Cru. Dessert beer? Who knew? I thought the mini veggie tacos and Corona with lime were great together too. (Okay, even I know everyone drinks Corona with lime) .

The part I enjoyed most was hearing from Draught Prophets’ pro, Steve Reilley. He’s a guy who goes around teaching bartenders how to pour the perfect glass of beer. It’s an art and a science and there’s a whole marketing angle with branded glasses and bottle labels.

If you want to serve beer like a pro, here’s what you need to know:
Sever it fresh and cold (38°F)
Have thorough clean lines
Use a clean glass, at cool or room temperature
The head should be dime-sized

I had no idea about the importance of a clean glass. Did you know you aren’t supposed to serve beer in the same glasses you use for milk or pop? I didn’t.

Big thank you to Molson for the great event and free 12-pack. Mr. B enjoys Rickard’s. ;-)

Photo courtesy of Tonia Hammer from Molson’s.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

eHarlequin’s Jayne Hoogenberk talks community at TGGD

Jayne Hoogenberk, community evangelist gave us incredible insights into developing and managing eHarlequin’s online community at the Toronto Geek Girl Dinner (TGGD) this week.

If you’re into romance novels, this is definitely one community you should check out. Read the TGGD blog for Leona Hobbs’s summary of the event if you’re passionate about online communities. You’ll probably learn at least a thing or two. I know I did.

If you’re interested in attending the next TGGD event, it’s with Sandi Jones from Rogers on September 10. Join the TGGD Facebook group for details.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Lauren Weisberger @ Indigo Bay & Bloor

Who and What?
Lauren Weisberger of The Devil Wears Prada fame will be speaking about her new book, chasing harry winston

Indigo Manulife (Bay & Bloor)
55 Bloor St. W. (see map)

Tuesday, Jun. 24
7:00 p.m.-9:00p.m.

Beauty, Bling & Bubbly helps Habitat for Humanity

Last week Cake and Foxy teamed up and hosted a Beauty, Bling & Bubbly fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity at The Boiler House in the Distillery District. Cake, Foxy at discount prices with proceeds going to a great cause, I couldn’t resist. Zoe, Rayanne and Michael came along with me and we did a bit of shopping and watched hoards of women going crazy.

I bought some Jungle Lemon Tart scented bath and shower “froth” and Desserted Island scented moisturizing body glaze. The latter worked wonders in the bath for my aching hip (it had be tormented by a sports med specialist a few hours earlier). We got some pink Glacéau Vitamin Water and pink shopping bag swag too.

Zoe, the video ninja couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell our story visually. Check out her awesome video!

Did you go to Beauty, Bling & Bubbly? What did you think? Buy anything?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Podcasters Across Borders 2008

I spent the weekend in Kingston at Podcasters Across Borders (aka PAB 2008). I had an incredible time and even have some great stories to share with you throughout the week. 

Have a look my pictures by checking out the flickr badge in the right sidebar of the blog. You can also find more here.

PAB 2008 Group Photo courtesy of Financial Aid Podcast

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tamsin talks maintenance and The Four Day Win

Eden and I continue our NutriSystem maintenance through the summer, as we negotiate our way through summer-social commitments (why do they all somehow involve yummy food!?) and nasty hip injuries (Feel better soon, Bargainista). If you’re looking summer reading that doesn’t involve torrid romance or scandal, I’ve got a book for you!

I’ve been reading a new book by one of my favourite writers – “The Four Day Win: End Your Diet War and Achieve Thinner Peace” by Martha Beck. The concept of small wins isn’t new; it’s a simple method of breaking a goal into digestible pieces (pardon the pun!) that you can accomplish over a four-day period. You can do this with help quit smoking, start an exercise regimen, tackle chores around the house, or your entire to-do list. Martha Beck applies the concept to gradually changing the way we think about food and our bodies. She talks about rewarding yourself for a 4-day win with something you love (a pedicure or massage), and then creating another goal. (OK, it’s much more introspective than that, but I won’t give it all away.)

In general, I’ve been pretty good about staying the NutriSystem course – but bags of chips (Miss Vickies, plain or jalapeno) bring challenging times. You see, I still find myself struggling as an emotional eater. In my case, I’ve noticed that the better I feel, the more permissive I am about “treating” myself with food. I feel so good about where NutriSystem has helped me get to that I am determined to undo my self-sabotaging habits. This book has got me thinking about stomping out my self-indulgent, reward eating by gradually sneaking in small changes.

I always admired people who are able to give up white flour, white rice, and potatoes (way to go, Donna Papacosta). Seemed impossible to me! But I can see how achievable that could be by taking it 4 days at a time. Maybe that’s be a longer term goal for me.

In the meantime, I’m continuing to eat NutriSystem meals a few times a week and starting to chip away at my conscious, healthy eating goals 4 days a time. Can’t wait to treat myself with a pedicure – less fattening than those chips!

Friday, June 13, 2008

Contest: Tri-Cyclen Lo asks “Who Inspires U?”

Janssen-Ortho, the makers of the birth control pill Tri-Cyclen Lo (scroll down for product info.), is trying to connect with young women through an online video campaign. They seem to be marketing to the same demo as Alesse only with a less catchy name.

As a mom with a young teen son, the Alesse ads make me cringe. I’m just not ready to go there. On the other hand, I really like how the Tri-Cyclen Lo campaign is asking young women “Who inspires U”. It’s focusing on overall empowerment of women instead of empowering them only in a sexual way.

Now for the contest...
If you’re into video and sharing your inspiration in public, you’ll have a chance to win big. There’s a $10,000 grand prize! If you’re video is one of the top 3 viewed, you’ll win $500. But that’s not all, every month from June through September, you’ll have a chance to win a prize pack worth $1,000. Check out the rules and regs.

Have a look at the Who Inspires U? video promo:

Here’s a list of the prize pack items for June (it looks pretty sweet to me):
Telus Blackberry Curve
Marc Jacobs bag
Cole Haan Sunglasses
$25 Starbucks gift card
Moleskine Hard Cover Journal
MAC Lipstick
MAC Bronzer

What do you think about this Tri-Cyclen Lo promo? Would it influence your birth control decision? How ’bout the contest and prizes?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Dear Bargainista #14 - locating a dress

Patricia from Montreal writes:
I live in Montreal and I go to Holt Renfrew for shopping. Last week, I saw a white dress with a zipper in the back from Lida Baday. Today, when I went back the dress was sold. I would like to find the same one - size 6 or 8. If you could help me I will be very happy. The saleswoman did not want to call Holts in Toronto to check. Just tell me where I may call to find that dress.

Thank you very much
Dear Patricia,

Bummer! Did the saleswoman at Holt Renfrew explain why she couldn’t call the Toronto locations on your behalf? It doesn’t sound like you received the level of service I would expect from a store like Holts.

I suggest you try calling your local Holt Renfrew store and see if someone will help you. Otherwise, If you really want the dress, you may have to call another Holt Renfrew location yourself.

Alternatively, you may want to contact other stores that carry Lida Baday instead. I know The Bay on Queen St. in Toronto carries higher-end designer fashions including Lida Baday. I also suggest checking eBay since you already know your size - you may even find it for less!

I’d love to know what you decide and whether you end up finding what you want. Please leave a comment and let everyone know.

Dear Bargainista would love to hear from you too! Have a question about shopping, fashion or food? E-mail us.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Smart Set’s fashion & sourcing director gives me a wardrobe suggestion

A while ago, I was asked to participate in a project for Smart Set. They wanted me to help them launch their new brand and – “a site demonstrating one of the key principles of the brand – that Smart Set is a place where fashion lovers can mix, match and accessorize ’til their heart’s content”.

For participating, they’d send me a $75 Smart Set gift card. To be honest, I hadn’t stepped into a Smart Set since I was about 14 but I’m open-minded and accepted the offer. Besides, I’d be nuts to turn down free clothes and $75 goes a long way at Smart Set.

My assignment: send in a photo of a clothing item in my wardrobe that defines me. In addition to the gift card, Smart Set’s Fashion & Sourcing Director, Lindy Omassi would put together an outfit just for me.

No brainer – I sent in a photo of my new black pants.

Lindy suggested the following:
Belted striped blazer - $50
Wood necklace - $16

I breezed through the store one day and saw the blazer on display. It was cute but not sure it’s what I’m going to by with my $75. What do you think?

I think I may hold out for a bit. You see, I need new jeans and Smart Set has partnered with Parasuco for a new line they’re introducing this summer. I also really like the purple top they’ve partnered with black pants on I’ll be sure to let you know what I buy with my gift card. Stay tuned.

Check out Smart Set’s Facebook fan page and/or download the Fashion Cube application, just make sure to have your photo ready if you wanna play.

Monday, June 09, 2008

My new black pants – the saga of a spaz

I spent a weekend in Montreal last April. It coincided with a Banana Republic promotion. They offered a discount based on your total purchase price (sale stuff included). So I went for the max. and spent just over $200 and got a $50 discount.

This was my first big spend since my weight loss and I needed some new work clothes. The highest-ticket item was a sleek pair of cuffed black pants with a flat front. They were a bit long so as soon as I got home, I paid a visit to my dressmaker and had them shortened.

Okay, so the first day I wore them to work, I also wore a new pair of spike-heeled shoes from Town Shoes. I had a lunchtime appointment downtown. I had no idea those heels were like knives but they were. By the time I got back to the office, not only did they get caught in a grate and destroyed on Bloor St. but they sliced through the cuffs on my new black pants 3 times! Yes, I’ll admit I’m a bit of a spaz. ;)

So, back to the dressmaker I went. She did her best to salvage my poor new black pants but I lost the cuff and gained some additional seams. Under a magnifying glass, they looked like a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. But, before I could even wear my pants in this new configuration, I injured my hip and was on a forced six-week sabbatical from high heels.

So, off to the dressmaker I went again this weekend. I had my black pants shortened to just the right length (and no more funny stitching). Now, I can wear them with my new black flats. Finally!

By the way, Town Shoes covered the cost of repairing my shoes, no questions asked. Awesome!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sharp and Calaway Golf tee up for Father’s Day

You may remember my weekly wish for a Sharp Aquos HDTV. Well my family has been enjoying my prize for several weeks now and I don’t know how we survived without and HDTV or digital cable.

Now you can have a chance to give that special man in your life his HDTV wish this month. If you buy an Sharp Aquos LCD TV 42” or larger, by June 26, you’ll also get a gift from Sharp: a customized Callaway Golf Hyper X Driver (approximate retail value $350).

Looking for some tips before buying an HDTV: read Sharp Caters to the Ladies, Teaches About HD or check out the interview Colleen Tully from Canadian Living I did with Christine Persaud from Market News during Ladies Night in High-Def last April:

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Keeping it off with NutriSystem?

Okay, so it’s been a month since the official NutriSystem Challenge ended. I actually kept up with the routine until mid-May then family gatherings got in the way. I lost another few pounds even though I didn’t want to.

So when my son’s Bar Mitzvah weekend came around, I planned to eat whatever I wanted. A week later my weight was still about the same. Then today, another half week later, I hopped on the scale and gained two pounds! Yikes!

I still look the same and my clothes still fit fine but I’m getting concerned. I’m at my ideal weight (according to me) and I don’t want to gain another ounce. So, guess what, instead of doing a half-assed job of following NutriSystem, today I followed it every step of the way, well except I didn’t drink eight glasses of water. Thank goodness the good folks at NutriSystem have agreed to keep me stocked up with their food.

Now it’s a balancing act. I want to keep my current weight and not lose any more. I think I’ll try keeping it up during the week and give myself a bit of a break on the weekends. Ideally, I should be exercising but thanks to a hip injury, I’ve had to put that on hold for another month or so. I’ve been trying to walk a bit at night but 10 minutes is about my limit.

FYI, my friend ZoeDisco and her husband have started their own NutriSystem project. They are video chronicling their experience. Pretty cool, huh?

What do you do to maintain your ideal weight? I need some help. Please share your tricks and tips.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Gotstyle 3rd year anniversary sale & midnight madness

According to Gotstyle owner, Melissa Austria, “This sale is for the ladies who want their men to start dressing better!” With Father’s Day around the corner, this sale might be just what you need to spruce up that someone special in you life’s wardrobe.

3rd year anniversary sale
20% off the entire store

Midnight madness event
Up to 75% off
Door crasher specials, giveaways, contests all night
Michael Landsberg from Off the Record is making a guest appearance from 3 p.m.- 5 p.m.

3rd year anniversary sale
Fri. June 6 - Sun. June 8

Midnight madness event
Sat. June 7

489 King St. W, (See map.)
Toronto, ON
M5V 1K4

Let us know what you get if you go.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

100 GTA kids are getting computers from Little Geeks

The mandate of the Little Geeks Foundation is: “To enhance the lives of children by providing computers to the underprivileged families within our community”. The Foundation hopes to put computers in 1,000 this year starting this month.

With the help of generous donations from individual and corporate sponsors, Little Geeks Foundation is giving away refurbished computers, complete with Windows XP and Microsoft Office to 100 families of underprivileged kids in the GTA, for free!

When Ben Lucier, Co-chair of Little Geeks’ board of directors asked me to help spread the word, I couldn’t say no.


Thurs., Jun. 12 – 3 p.m.-7 p.m.

St. Andrew’s United Church
117 Bloor St. E.
Toronto, ON (See map.)

How you can get involved...
There or many ways to donate to Little Geeks. Donating a computer you no longer need not only benefits a child, it’s an environmentally-friendly thing to do. If you’re a big geek and want to help refurbish computers or mentor the kids, you can do that too.

If you have a child in need of a computer, you can visit the Little Geeks website to register. Once qualified, recipients will be contacted by a Little Geeks staff member to attend the event and pickup their free computer.

NOTE: You must register to be qualified to receive a computer.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Capezio Sale - up to 50% off

Capezio sale up to 50% off

Stores throughout the GTA and online



Bargainista Moment:
I bought two pairs of new shoes on Saturday at regular price. They are now on sale. I called the store and since I still have my bill and they were both purchased at the regular price, as long as I go back within 10 days, they’ll refund the difference. Yay!

Difference = $42 + tax (not anywhere near 50% off but I’ll take what I can get.)

Twitter tees and caps for sale at CaféPress

Dave Delaney, a fellow Torontonian currently residing in Nashville, is probably the most knowledgeable person I know when it comes to twitter.

Dave is talented in many ways. Recently, he designed this awesome tee shirt describing twitter’s behaviour patterns to a T. Sometimes it’s up; sometimes it’s down just like a seesaw.

Twitter works sporadically and when it works it’s wonderful. When it doesn’t, we all experience some form of twitter withdrawal or another. Yet, we just can’t give it up. For me, it’s the new power app even if half the time it works like…

If you’re a twitter fan and want one of Dave’s tee shirts or baseball caps of your very own, you can buy one at Café

Sunday, June 01, 2008

From mesh to PAB

I’ve had a lot on my plate lately so the bad news is, I haven’t been posting as many of my shopping stories as I’d like. The good news is, I’m back and have a whole bunch of stuff to share.

Two of those things are the conference I attended last month and the one I’m heading to at the end of this one.

I’m a third-year veteran of mesh – the social media conference where people connect, share and inspire. The keynote speakers and sessions were incredible. The people (general attendees and presenters) were equally inspiring. That's a picture of the guys who run the show (aka meshies) on the right.

At less than $500 including meals and parties, mesh is one of the best deals around. I also picked up some food for thought and some inspiration I’ll be sharing soon.

On June 20-22, I’ll be heading to Kingston for my first Podcasters Across Borders (aka PAB). I wanted to go last year but the timing didn’t work. It’s still not great for me but Connie’s been after me and co-organizer, Mark Blevis gave me royal heck over dinner during mesh when he read on twitter I’d be taking a pass. He and Bob Goyetche from the Canadian Podcast Buffet are running it again this year and no one knows podcasting better than those two.

So, I reconsidered and registered. I may not have my own podcast – at least not yet – but I’ve been interviewed on some and I’ve been working on audio projects at the office. (I was also a member of the PodCamp Toronto 2008 organizing team). Besides, there’s always lots of other stuff going on and for $125, a two-hour drive and sharing a hotel room with Connie, PAB should be a steal. Why don’t you join us? Register here.