Thursday, July 31, 2008

Okay, so I finally blew it but I’m determined to get back on track

Once I started deviating from NutriSystem and eating junk food other than the occasional ice cream or gelato, I had trouble stopping. To make matters worse, I was on a mini-vacation last week and my hosts were quick to express their disappointment when I suggested I eat salad with tuna instead of their cooking.

You guessed it... I’ve gained back a few nasty pounds. I need to learn not to be discouraged. I need to remember I’m still hanging on to my original goal of 25 pounds and down three sizes!

I have lots of NutriSystem dinners on hand because I’m pretty good about knowing how and what to eat for dinner at home or at restaurants so on maintenance I’d been pretty religious about sticking to the plan except for dinners.

I inquired about ordering more breakfasts and lunches from NutriSystem but that option isn’t available – at least not to Canadian customers.

Feeling desperate, I asked one of their PR company’s reps for help. NutriSystem came through and thanks to them, I have an order of breakfasts and lunch bars on their way.

Losing the weight was challenging and keeping all of it off is even tougher but I’m determined not to go back to the weight I was when I started the NutriSystem Challenge last winter.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

What were they thinkng?

I can’t believe someone even suggested 212 Sexy Men as a name for a fragrance. Would you buy something with that name? I wouldn’t. I don’t care how nice it smells or that it’s part of Carolina Herrera’s collection. Besides, what would I do with 212 men?

Occasionally, I’m going to post pictures of wacky products I’ve found. Feel free to send in your pictures of other wacky products and I may post them here too.

Dear Bargainista #16 - baby gifts

Leona from Toronto writes:
One of my oldest and dearest friends had her first baby (a boy) on July 8. She lives in Edmonton. Do you have some ideas for great baby gifts or unique shops here in Toronto where I could get a special gift?

Thanks for your help. Love the blog,
Dear Leona,

It’s been ages since I had my babies and things have changed a lot since then. Seems every time I turnaround there’s something new. I’ve listed my top three suggestions:

I just learned about this great new baby bath towel called Kangaroo Towel ($39.99). You can wear it while you bathe your baby so you stay dry. When the bath is finished, you can simply pick up the little one and put him in the in the self-contained towel with it’s own hoodie while you dry the baby and then lay him on the change table. Bonus: the Kangaroo Towel comes in it’s own little organza bag perfect for gift-giving. Check for a store near you or your friend (you may be able to save on shipping costs if you order from a store near her).

I learned about the Kangaroo Towel from Parent Tested Parent Approved Media. You may want to check out some of the other great things on this year’s list of winning products.

The Bumbo Seat ($59.99) also makes an incredible gift. It’s a fun little seat for babies as young as 6 weeks old to 14 months. Babies can sit upright while interacting with you and you can have your hands free. There are so few things babies can actually sit up in during the first few months other than I car seat. The makers also claim it helps improve posture. You can pick it up at Mastermind or order it online. Either way, hey’ll wrap it up and add a gift card for you. I’ve had excellent experiences sending gifts from their online store for years.

Another one of my favourites is the Mini-Whozit ($12.99). It also makes a nice add-on. My little guy had one and wouldn’t go anywhere with out it when he was a baby. There’s a whole line Whozit toys at various prices. You can get it at Mastermind and lots of other place where baby toys are sold.

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

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tip of the week: applying self-tanning lotion

Years ago when QT was the only self-tanning product on the market, I tried a tester. I swear I wore a stain of that stuff on the inside of my wrist for years.

So, since then despite the warnings about the dangers of natural tanning and the plethora of self-tanning products on the market these days, I’d been keeping my distance. Well, until this year...

My son’s Bar Mitzvah was in May and I didn’t want to wear pantyhose with my suit during the morning. My party dress was white, so my pale legs needed some help.

My sister and a couple friends told me I needed to get a hold of a self-tanner and fast! Which one? They unanimously offered up Jergens Natural Glow Daily Moisturizer. It was also the least expensive at my local drugstore. Only problem was, I had less than 12 hours to get ready and I needed 3 days for the product to take effect. So, I took a chance and picked up Jergens Natural Glow Express instead.

I applied it as soon as I got home and first thing the next morning. I ended up with just enough colour. I also ended up with a bit of streaking on my legs and dark splotches between my toes. The problem areas would have been hidden had I kept my sandals on all night. About 2 hours into the party, I dislocated my hip and had to remove them. Oh no, the spots on my toes were there for all to see.

My sister gave me some tips:
Exfoliate and remove all dead skin in the shower first
Mix your self-tanning with your own moisturizer before applying (I used equal amounts of each).

Not being one to give up, I tried it again.

The results:
Much better, no funny dark spots and a much more even fake tan with a bit of an orange tinge.

My take:
I’m a bit concerned about what these chemicals are doing to my skin. I’m not so crazy about the orange-tinged skin either but I have been using the self-tanning lotion two consecutive days a week. Check out “How do sunless-tanning products work?” for more info.

One final tip:
Self-tanning products are NOT sunscreen. Be sure to apply sunscreen before you go outside.

Do you use a self-tanning product? If so which one and do you have any helpful tips to share?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tamsin is finding maintenance tough

This month, Tamsin interviews a NutriSystem counselor about maintaining her new weight...

Help! I’ve hit a snag in my NutriSystem maintenance and gained 4 pounds in the past week! This really bums me out but, in truth, I know exactly where those 4 pounds came from: Summer snacking! A fruity cocktail on the patio here, a handful of low-fat chips there… it adds up.

I called NutriSystem to chat with a Nutrition Counselor about getting back on track. I explained my horror and Counselor Donna asked me questions about to get a sense of my typical day of eating.

I told her that I really love the NutriSystem breakfast and lunch bars, and that I usually have the dessert with my afternoon coffee because that’s when my sweet tooth moment hits. Then I sheepishly described some of my favourite snacks for unwinding on the patio at the end of the day. Ah-ha! That’s the culprit right there. Donna was very supportive. She told me, “Sure, it common sense that it’s important to avoid resorting to old habits that may have contributed to your original weight gain, but knowing that doesn’t make it easy!”

Tamsin: How many NutriSystem foods do you recommend during Maintenance?

NutriSystem Counselor: How often you use NutriSystem foods depends on you. During your maintenance, you decide which NutriSystem foods you want to help maintain your weight loss. Some people, like yourself, stick wit the bars for breakfast and lunch because they are convenient. Many NutriSystem dieters choose NutriSystem foods for 2-3 complete days per week.

Tamsin: How many calories are required for maintenance?

NutriSystem Counselor: Donna explained that the number of calories I need to maintain my weight is determined by my activity level, weight, age and metabolism.

Tamsin: How long do NutriSystem dieters stay on maintenance?

NutriSystem Counselor: Donna told me that maintenance time is a personal choice. On average, dieters stay stick with the maintenance program for a year. At minimum, Donna recommends 6 months. She’s met many NutriSystem dieters who stayed on the maintenance program for 2-3 years.

Tamsin: What does NutriSystem recommend for alcohol consumption? Is it OK to have a cold beer or icy mojito on a hot summer day?

NutriSystem Counselor: NutriSystem recommends no more than 2 alcoholic beverages a week, including during maintenance. Donna reminded me that those tasty sweet cocktails are often loaded with calories.

Donna emailed me some guidelines for following the NutriSystem Maintenance Plan, which is available in the U.S. Getting back on track is my new 4-Day Goal! The bright side is that I have loads of NutriSystem food and motivation to get back on track.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Weekly Wish – a decent affordable department store in Toronto

With news today about NRDC Equity Partners purchasing The Hudson Bay Co., the national retail landscape is about change, especially where designer fashion is concerned. NRDC purchased Lord & Taylor in 2006 – the historical U.S. fashion department store chain – and it seems to be thriving under their ownership.

I for one was very disappointed when The Bay moved into American hands a couple years ago but since it’s already there, I have no problem with it being in the hands of a company that has the potential to provide fashion-conscious shoppers with options at affordable price points. Speculation is it will give Holt Renfrew a run for its money. Could be interesting...

I love the purple merino sheath dress (pictured) Lord & Taylor is showing for fall and it seems like good value at $144. There’s also speculation about Fortunoff - also part of the Lord & Taylor-NRDC family joining the mix in the Great White North.

As for whether or not they should change the name to Lord & Taylor, I’m not sure. The Hudon Bay Co. represents such an imporant part of Canadian history, I’d hate to see it go.

Whether or not I’ll get my wish, only time will tell. What do you think?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Black studded cuff bracelet: a real steal

While Mr. B was in line at Banana Republic paying for two great casual summer shirts at 60% off, I found this amazing chunky black studded cuff bracelet on sale. It originally sold for $65 so for $12.99 (that’s 80% off), I couldn’t resist.

There are some incredible bargains this time of year. Have you had any great finds lately?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Just One More Book celebrates episode 400!

Just One More Book is a wonderful podcast about children’s books. Husband and wife team, Andrea Ross and Mark Blevis (two of the co-organizers of Podcasters Across Borders) have been sharing their passion and knowledge for 2 years. Today they reached 400 episodes.

Andrea and Mark record four episodes each week from their favourite Ottawa coffee shop, discussing their favourite books for kids of all ages, including a weekly interview with a different children’s book author.

It’s labour of love and an excellent free resource for parents, teachers and anyone else who wants to expand their knowledge of children’s books. Just One More Book has exposed me to new titles and authors and I’m sure it will do the same for you.

Congratulations Andrea and Mark for your generosity and support of literacy in the community!

Check it out and let us know what you think.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tip of the Week – Check out out miniBookExpo for free books

Looking for something to read this summer?

Wanna choose a great book or two for free? It’s easy. All you need to do is check out the miniBookExpo. The rules are pretty simple, basically, you choose a book and agree to blog about it within a month.

Last year I read The Manny and so far, I’ve selected 2011 by Richard Laermer this year. Stay tuned for my review.

Don’t have your own blog? No problem. You can submit your review to Alexa Clark, the wonderful woman who conceived the miniBookExpo three years ago. She’ll post it for you.

Photo credit: lexnger on Flickr

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Weekly Wish – a new cell phone (and so much more)

When it comes to the digital world, I’m pretty comfortable. Sometimes the computer keyboard feels like a natural extension of my body. I’ve been living online since 1995 and loving every minute, even in the days of dial-up (yawn!).

Okay, I have a confession to make. There’s one big exception. When it comes to mobile technology, I’m still a bit of a luddite. I don’t have a Blackberry but I know how to surf the web and tweet with one. I have a plain old utilitarian cell phone. And, guess what I use it for? That’s right, making phone calls. I barely even use text. If I do, it’s usually because one of my friends has sent me a text message and they know better than to expect a reply. Shh! Please don’t tell anyone!

I’d love a mobile device with all the bells and whistles but I’ve never paid more than $30 for a cell phone. I got my current one for free as part of a 36-month plan. It has another 13 months left and I don’t want to pay the penalty. Besides, the monthly charge is only $20!

Well, old habits die hard, but with the launch of the iPhone in Canada tomorrow and Samsung’s Instinct next month, I’m wishing to get in on all the fun. Both these devices have all kinds of great features and are much easier to carry around than my treasured MacBook. I’m having a great time chatting with @theinstinct on twitter too.

As much as I’ve been an Apple lover and owner for almost 20 years, with the lower data rate plan, The Instinct seems like more of a bargain but in all fairness, I want to see for myself by comparing it with the iPhone and decide which one offers the best value. (I’ve decided not to bore you with the details because they’ve been posted all over the ’Net and you can read about them elsewhere.)

Will you be lining up for the iPhone tomorrow? Waiting for the Instinct? Doing neither? Leave a comment and let us know what you think.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

If the shoe fits… Buy it online

Note: I hope you enjoy this guest post from my twitter friend Kelly Rusk who loves shoes almost as much as Carrie Bradshaw.

Being addicted to beautiful shoes AND frugal is a tough combination. Add in living in a city that’s not exactly considered fashion-forward (Ottawa), and you’re in big trouble.

While I make do, I had been tinkering with the idea of buying shoes online… Actually “obsessing” might be a more accurate word. But after shipping, taxes and duties, it looks to be a big rip-off for any Canadian. And what happens if you have to return them? A scary thought. However, my first online shoe buying experience was nothing but pleasant. Was it sheer luck? Maybe. But I like to believe I had a solid strategy behind my purchase, which has inspired this guest contribution to Bargainista.

First, before you start buying online I suggest going out and trying on A LOT of shoes. Heck, buy a few pairs while you’re at it! Basically you’ll want to have a good understanding of what styles look good, which brands are comfortable to you, etc. I went with this stunning pair by Chinese Laundry because I’ve had a few pairs of varying styles and each has always been one of my favourite pairs of the day.

For Canadians, buying anything online can be a little scary. However, I believe shoes are probably one of the more high-risk online fashion buys. Any shoe aficionado likely knows you buy probably 5 pairs of shoes for every one pair you really love and wear all the time. When purchasing online, you pay extra for shipping, duties, taxes etc., so you want to be sure you’re getting the right pair.

I bought my shoes from, which was an excellent experience except for a few quirks:

1. Shoes include an “import” tax, which you don’t see until you’re checking out.

2. If you want to return your shoes, Zappos makes it super easy BUT it costs $15 and (correct me if I’m wrong) you don’t get the import tax back either. So you’re looking at around $ 40 to return.

3. Shoes are all priced in US dollars, which isn’t a big difference right now, but still it all adds up.

So, my shoes, which were listed as $73, I actually ended up paying $108 for, however, they were worth every penny. They successfully survived (err, I should say my feet did) a night on the town, and I’m looking forward to many more.

Note, I honestly tried to find other recommendations for stores to buy from, but in terms of selection, price, quality and service, it just keeps going back to Zappos! I definitely won’t argue it’s fantastic, but I’d also love to hear any suggestions for other online stores.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The NutriSystem Challenge: two months later

Wow! That's all I can say. I’ve been off the Nutrisystem Challenge for just over two months now and not only have I managed to maintain my weight and svelte new figure, I’ve actually lost another few pounds!

Here’s what I’ve been up to:
Two conferences
Major family party weekend
Eating lots of ice cream and cake
Drinking martinis and beer
Little exercise - I’d love to ride my bike and try Wii Fit but I have a bit more healing to do

How I’ve been managing?
Smaller portions
Maintaining similar eating habits as when I was on a more rigid NutriSystem routine
Following Nutrisystem as much as possible for breakfast, lunch, snacks and some dinners
Drinking lots of water and eating lots of veggies, fruit and protien, while shunning the carbs
Minimal after-dinner snacking

Thanks NutriSystem for keeping my cupboards fully-stocked with your food. ;) When are you starting the maintenance program in Canada? I want in!

How do you maintain your weight? What tempts you? How do you manage when you’re away from home?

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Helping Dave Delaney, Keith Burtis does it again

Last night I learned my friend Dave Delaney unexpectedly had to give up his MacBook when he made are recent career change. Dave is on the verge of starting his own consulting biz and without his laptop, well...

Dave was given a special card from a magician in honour of his 8,000 tweet (or message) on twitter. As you may remember, Dave is a creative guy so last night he started an auction on eBay to raise money for a new MacBook.

Not one to stand by on the sidelines, Keith Burtis decided to help out. Tomorrow night, he will be doing some woodturning and auctioning his wares on BlogTV at 9 p.m. EST sharp. All money raised will be handed over to Dave for his new MacBook. You can read all about it on Keith’s blog.

What would you do to help out a friend?