Monday, September 29, 2008

Dressing the belly

In this week’s column, Jenny Bullough share’s her thoughts about maternity wear.

Like a lot of moms and expecting moms, it’s an ongoing challenge for me to find inexpensive yet elegant maternity clothes. Staying stylish yet comfortable and not spending a fortune doesn’t seem like an outlandish or unreachable goal, so why is it so hard?

Part of the problem is that most maternity wear is designed to fit women who are at the most rotund stage of pregnancy – which often means that in the early months, these items are far too big. Right now I’m at the awkward stage of desperately cramming myself into my regular clothes – okay, my “fat” clothes usually reserved for premenstrual bloating – because my maternity clothes are still far too big and loose. I’m also deep in denial about the coming Clothespocalypse: saying goodbye to my cute fall sweaters and trousers, knowing I won’t fit into them until next year.

However, there is hope! A friend and new mom bequeathed to me her Bella band – a handy little piece of elasticized fabric that, miracle of miracles! Allows you to wear your prepregnancy pants unbuttoned. This should help me to make my fall wardrobe staples last a little bit longer, at least until my maternity pants will stay up! (Motherhood Maternity also carries their own version, the “tummy sleeve”.)

When the Bella band option has been exhausted, likely by October, I’m going to have to make a trip downtown to visit my two favorite mainstream maternity chain stores -- Motherhood Maternity and Thyme Maternity. Their clothes are decently priced, fairly fashionable without being overly trendy, and they have enough selection that I can mix-and-match their current pieces with the older and hand-me-down maternity clothes currently living in bins in my basement.

I’ll tell you what brand I *wish* made maternity clothes: Lululemon. I’m so tired of my favorite workout shirts riding up my growing belly while I’m trying to maintain an imprinted spine in Prenatal Pilates, or achieve camel pose in Prenatal Yoga!

What about you – do you have a favorite maternity store or brand? Or a favorite brand, period, that you wish had a maternity line?
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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Wii Fit may be just what I need

Even before it hit store shelves last May, I had every intention of trying out the Wii Fit the first chance I could get. Knowing it would be next to impossible to actually find one when they came on the market, I did something I’ve never done before. I used my twitter connections to find the PR company Nintendo hired to oversee the Canadian launch. Birdman Dodd was a great help.

As luck would have it, Shannon Morton from APEX PR introduced herself to me at mesh. She had read my weekly wish and offered me a loaner. Unfortuately, I succumbed to an injury and wasn't allowed to use it until I recovered. Lucky for me, the offer was still good months later.

After my recent weight loss, I needed to get exercising again so you can imagine how excited I was (as was the rest of my family) when the Wii Fit arrived. I was hoping it would be something we could all use. My kids couldn't wait to try it out but the novelty wore off quickly after they tested out the various activities (aerobics, yoga, strengthening, balance). Mr. B. had pretty much the same response. I have a bit of a Wii-phobia and kept on putting it off.

I stared at it for a long time before I actually gave it a whirl and I have to say, the activities weren't as well executed as other Wii games and activities. However, it's ability to provide fitness tests, track my progress, yoga lessons and weight loss goals are impressive.

The balance board doubles as a scale and an accurate one at that. I was pleased to learn that my Body Mass Index (BMI) is now in the normal range –– yipee! I wasn't as pleased to learn I had gained a few pounds since I last stepped on a scale. At least it was nothing major.

My fitness test results were pretty scary ’cause I'm in bad shape –– at least I can do something about that. Aerobics and yoga were my favourites. I regret not trying skiing. I learned I suck at balance activities.

While I wasn’t as wowed as expected, I am sold. Nintendo is also producing new activities for Wii Fit so people don’t get bored of doing the same exercises over and over again. Although there are lots of Wii Fit accessories on store shelves, the actual game is still hard to find even four months after it’s release. (Psst, if you don’t tell anyone, you may want to try Toy Town – this hidden gem started selling Nintendo accessories about a year ago. ☺)

Have you tried Wii Fit? If so, does it work for you?
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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Google is 10 today!

Google is 10 years old today, just a couple weeks younger than my little guy. I can’t imagine life before he came on the scene and that’s how I feel about Google. I love them both in very different ways.

Can you even imagine a day without Google? I can’t. For the past 10 years, it’s helped make our lives easier by giving us all kinds of incredible online tools – and all of them are free!

Even if you don’t shop online, I’m sure you do you research here first. Do you think that would still be the case if it weren’t for Google?

How Google has changed your shopping habits?
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Monday, September 22, 2008

Cheap clothes for kids

In this week’s column, Jenny Bullough share’s her thoughts about shopping on a budget for young kids.

Now that fall is really upon us, my thoughts naturally turn to outfitting my 4-year-old for the colder months.

After a few years’ experience of digging through last winter’s long-sleeved shirts, pants, and jackets and finding more than half of them no longer fit, I’m prepared for a massive shopping explosion in order to make sure my girl is adequately clothed for the coming chill.

Nothing says “mommy guilt” like seeing the disapproving glances of the other daycare/preschool/JK moms and dads when they see bare ankles and wrists exposed because last season’s pants and shirts are suddenly a size too small! I speak from experience, unfortunately.

I hope you won’t think I’m a negligent parent when I tell you that when it comes to buying my little kindergartner clothes for everyday wear, I am *supremely* cheap.

Again, from experience I know that anything she wears to daycare or school is doomed to come back home stained with play-doh, paint, food, or old-fashioned mud, and most likely missing buttons, fasteners, and any fancy doo-dads sewn onto it, so spending a lot of money on daily wear is just not worth the investment since by the time she’s done with it, it won’t even be fit for passing on to future siblings or younger cousins.

For cheap kids’ wear, my first stop is always Joe Fresh. There’s a section conveniently located in our local Loblaws, which makes it easy to check out their clearance racks every week; and their kids clothes are inexpensive and surprisingly durable. Plus their pants often feature adjustable waists, which is a key ingredient to longevity in the kid wardrobe.

If I can’t find what I need while grocery shopping, Old Navy or Zellers will often have good stuff on their sale racks, and their regularly-priced merchandise isn’t too costly. For durability, go with Old Navy first; for items bedecked with your child’s favorite cartoon characters, Zellers is your best bet. I have occasionally had issues with the fit of some Zellers clothes, but as with all HBC properties their no-hassle return policy makes it easy to buy two sizes and return the one that doesn’t fit.

And finally, I always love to drop into Once Upon a Child at least once a season and I’m rarely disappointed. This chain of consignment stores scores high marks with me for their constant rotation of high-quality, gently-used kids clothing. I’ve gotten some tremendous deals there on barely-worn name-brand designer kids clothes like Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren.

Those are my top tips for durable, cheap daily kids wear. What store is your first stop when your little ones need new school clothes?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Flex time!

Thanks to Ford Canada and Social Media Group, I was asked if I wanted to take a Ford Flex for a spin. It’s Ford’s answer to the minivan since they stopped manufacturing the Freestar a couple years ago and it’s made at their Oakville plant.

I’m no soccer mom but I wanted to test it out around the ’hood with my family in tow. I’m a minivan driver so I think I have a pretty good point of reference. The kids loved it because of the features we don’t have in our van. Mr. B. enjoyed his test drive too. I even liked the two-tone Light Ice Blue Metallic with White Suede roof colour and as Mr. B. will tell you, I usually have an aversion to blue cars. Don’t know why, I just do.

I also thought it would be a lot of fun to fill it up with some podcampers and take it to PodCamp Montreal. Joining me for the ride were Connie Crosby, Lily Mills, Jay Moonah, Daniele Rossi and Brent Morris.

The Flex is spacious and with six leather captain seats, built in DVD player, SIRIUS satellite radio and four sunroofs, it’s a more luxurious vehicle I’m used to driving.

We had a very comfortable ride but found parking and turning such a long and wide cross-over vehicle more challenging. As you can see below, at 201.8" in length, it’s somewhat long for a standard parking spot. Cool thing is, when you’re backing up and getting too close to an object behind you, an audio signal lets you know.

Seats in the middle and back rows can easily be turned down for extra storage. When all seats are in the upright position, storage isn’t as generous as I would have thought for the wide Flex design. We managed to fit all our our overnight luggage in the back.

The electrical outlet was a bonus for us geeks ’cause we could use our laptops without wearing out the batteries.
One of the cool features we wanted to check out was the “fridge”. We had planned to bring a special lunch with us instead of stopping at a fast-food place on the highway. Needless to say, although having a small fridge compartment is a great bonus for keeping snacks and drinks cold for the kids, it was smaller than we expected and not large enough to hold our lunches.

According to Ford Canada the Flex starts at $34,999 and the model I previewed retails at $44,229.

Read more about Flex features.

Photo credit: photos of me and the electrical outlet are courtesy of Connie Crosby. UPDATE: Connie also took the photo of the Flex in the parking lot.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Introducing baby bargainista!

By now you probably know that my kids are way past the newborn, toddler and preschool stages. So, when my friend and expectant mom, Jenny Bullough wanted to blog about her shopping experiences, I welcomed her with open arms. I hope you do too!

Welcome to baby bargainista! In this weekly column I’ll be dishing about where to find good quality maternity, baby, and toddler goods, hopefully on the cheap or worth the money if they’re a big spend.

I’m a mom to one 4-year-old with another one on the way, due in January. My day job is in publishing, which is the kind of business you go into for the love of books, not because you expect to make six figures, so I’m always on the lookout for a good deal! My good friend Bargainista finally tired of hearing me blather on about my adventures in shopping for kids, babies, and bumps, and kindly offered me this weekly spot on her blog to get my ya-yas out – and hopefully offer a few helpful tips along the way.

My aim is to cover all kinds of topics of interest to moms and expecting moms -- from finding inexpensive yet stylish maternity wear, to finding baby gear and clothes, to outfitting a kid for preschool/daycare/JK/whatever, to finding safe toys and products (an ongoing concern of mine and of many parents), to decorating safely and inexpensively for a new baby and/or redecorating a young child’s room.

And I want to hear from you – if there’s a topic you would like covered, a tip on a great deal you’d like to share, or a question you’d like answered, let us know in the comments!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Free tickets to The Clothing Show - Sept. 26-28

Want free tix?
The nice people at
The Clothing Show are giving away three pairs of tickets to the first three of you who ask for them in the comments section of the blog. Make sure you mention you’d like a pair of tickets in your comment.


The Clothing Show
Shop at more thank 300 booths of new label, designer, vintage and brand name clothing and accessories for men & women!
Runway fashion shows Friday night & Saturday
LOULOU Magazine Fashion Photography Competition
New Men’s & ECO sections!
Best Dressed Vintage (public) Competition
Century of Fashion Exhibit
Enter to win a $1,000 shopping spree!

Fri., Sept. 26 – 3 p.m.-9 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 27 – 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
Sun., Sept. 28 – 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

Better Living Center, Exhibition Place (See map.)

How much?
Tickets $8 in advance or $10 at the door.

Let us know what you get if you go.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

ChickAdvisor Shop Crawl heads to Little Italy

UPDATE: ChickAdvisor has changed the date to October 16.

ChickAdvisor is having another exclusive Shop Crawl with a twist... this time around it’s further in Little Italy on October 16 for ChickAdvisor members and friends.

The ChickAdvisor team has a great evening planned with discounts off at several stores, goody bags and even an after party where you can win great prizes. More details to follow.

Check out the new and improved ChickAdvisor if you haven’t seen it already.

Did you go any other ChickAdvisor Shop Crawls? If so, what did you think. Will you go again? Leave a comment.

ChickAdvisor Shop Crawl #4: Little Italy
• Free products and samples;
• Exclusive discounts from the participating popular College Street boutiques on either all regular-priced merchandise only
• After ]arty at Vecchio Frak with free food and drinks
• Enter to win prizes from event sponsors

Little Italy, Toronto including:
Girl Friday - 20% off
American Apparel - 10% off plus $5 gift card if you spend $100 or more
Balisi - 20% off
Lilliput Hats - 20% off
Red Pegasus - 25% off
Ziggy’ at Home - discount TBA

Thursday, Oct. 16: 6 p.m.-11 p.m.

How much?
Tickets $25 in advance
Buy now!

Lil Did: We have a winner!

Last month I ran a contest for a free pair of hand-made earrings from Jessie Wilding, owner/designer from Lil Did.

I received 10 entries and there was a random draw – each entry was assigned a number – I asked my son to pick a number between 1 and 10. He choose 9 and Wayne MacPhail won the earrings for his lovely wife Barb.

And by the way, Lil Did has a great promo on now: Buy one item, get 20% off a second item of equal or lesser value. You can also join her mailing list and you’ll be automatically entered for a monthly giveaway.

Thanks Jessie!

Stay tuned for another giveaway coming up soon!

photo credit: wmacphail on flickr