Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cashmere Day at Narnia

I’m sitting here wearing an amazing cashmere blend shrug from one of my favourite neighbourhood clothing stores. I bought it last spring in case it was too cold for my new dress. I didn’t need it then but I’ve been getting a lot of wear out of it this season.

Yesterday I was at Banana Republic and they had similar ones in several for $85 but they aren’t as soft as mine. (I think mine was $120).

Anyway, if you want personalized service and like supporting local merchants, check out Narnia.


• 20% off on all cashmere sweaters

Sun., Nov. 2: 1 p.m.-5 p.m.
One day only!

3236 Yonge St. (see map)
Toronto, ON. M4N 2L4
416 487-7287

Let is know what you get if you go.
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Monday, October 27, 2008

It’s nearly Halloween – do you have your kids’ costumes ready?

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny talks about Halloween costumes for little ones.

I have a confession. I find it almost painful spending a lot of money on Halloween costumes, especially for kids. Perhaps it’s a result of my upbringing; my mom sewed my costumes herself by adapting old clothes from her “scrap bag”, then after my brother was born and her time was shorter, she invited me to raid her closet and dress up as either a gypsy or a hippie. This was just fine with me and I would have been happy bringing up my little girl in the same low-key tradition.

But, I married into a family for whom Halloween is a major holiday, one of the tentpole events of the year. No expense is spared on décor, costumes, elaborate parties… They even buy different costumes every year for their cats as well as their kids. (I wish I were making this up.) When I suggested the hippie/gypsy option to my husband he recoiled in horror as if I’d just suggested we forgo gifts at Christmas.

So, I’ve learned to seek out inexpensive, yet impressive kids’ costumes. Happily, there are lots of sources, and the more last-minute your shopping, the better the bargains!

If your little ones aren’t too fussy about what they want to dress up as, and will be happy choosing from an assortment rather than seeking out a specific superhero or TV character, then I highly recommend a last-minute visit to Pottery Barn Kids. They offer a wide assortment of high-quality costumes, and the week before Halloween the prices are often slashed by half. Last year we picked up an elaborate dragon costume for our girl for $40, half the original price.

Another good option is Winners; the selection is a bit limited but the costumes available are generally very good quality (especially the adult ones, which come with their own zip-up garment bags) and you can’t beat the low prices. However, they only allow returns up until the 31st .

For a wider selection I recommend Wal-Mart – they have rows upon rows of costumes for adults and kids, plus accessories for DIYers. Be aware of sizes though – some of the costumes labeled size 2-4 are actually meant to fit a 1 or 2-year-old, and the adult costumes labeled “fits up to size 12” are snug on my size-4 sister-in-law. Also be aware that if anything doesn’t fit or suit, they also only allow returns up until the 31st.

As for me, I’ll be making my usual last-minute dash to Value Village. They have tons of Halloween costumes, both ready-made and ready to be built from what’s on offer. It’s amazing what you can cobble together from what’s on offer with no sewing required!

What about you -- any tips on where last-minute bargain-hunters can find Halloween inspiration?

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

SWAP - Don’t Shop clothing swap party #2

Glad to see Hope and the gang are at it again only bigger and better. It’s just so grassroots and sounds like a lot of fun. Swap parties are also an inexpensive and green way to refresh your wardrobe, clean out your closet and give to those in need.

Swap - Don’t Shop clothing swap party: A fun and frugal way to revamp your wardrobe

Come out to our secon clothing swap party with all of the unwanted clothing taking up space in your closet and drawers, and leave with bags of wonderful new wardrobe favourites!

All womens’ clothing, shoes, jewelery and other accessories (except undies) in clean and in good condition are welcome.

As well as fabulous clothing and yummy snacks, seamstresses will be on hand to do basic alterations and demos on reinventing your wardrobe.

103 Bellevue Ave.
St. Stephen-in-the-Fields church (at College, between Bathurst and Spadina) (map)

Saturday, Oct. 25
11 a.m.-2 p.m.

11 a.m.: Drop off your clothes, socialize, and enjoy the yummy snacks and drinks.
Noon: The swapping frenzy begins!

At the end of the day, all unclaimed clothing will be donated to charity.

How Much?
$8 to cover the cost of food, drinks and location rental fee.


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Monday, October 20, 2008

Safe decorating

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny shares her tips for choosing safe paints for her pre-schooler’s bedroom.

I’ve posted before about how paranoid I can become when it comes to the health of my babies, both born and unborn, so it’s likely no surprise to you that when the time came recently for us to redecorate our 4-year-old’s room and turn our “den” into a nursery, safety from toxic compounds was foremost in my mind.

In particular, paint and its off-gassing of VOCs was of primary concern for me, since
1. I’m pregnant and exposure to paint fumes is contraindicated above almost all other VOCs; and,
2. we couldn’t afford to stay anywhere but at home while the painting was going on.

Luckily for me, there are a number of low- and no-VOC paints now available to fretful parents like myself. Home Depot carries a line called Freshaire that promises no VOCs in the base or colorant, and no paint fumes. My neighborhood paint supply store, Reim Custom Paints, also carries their own brand. The color choices for both are as broad-ranging as any other brand of paint so that you don’t feel limited in your décor options.

And I can personally attest to the fact that the paint fumes are, if not completely absent, minimal. We chose a lovely light lavender hue for our 4-year-old’s room, with a deeper purple accent wall (purple is her favorite color). This required 2 coats of primer and 2 coats of paint to cover the original wall color (an obnoxiously bright orange – a legacy from the previous homeowners), but despite these multiple applications, the smell was barely noticeable.

What about you? What’s your safety obsession these days?

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Win a copy of Katie Brown Celebrates: Simple and Spectacular Parties All Year Round

My friend Kim Vallée of the wonderful blog At Home with Kim Vallée, is giving away 5 copies of Katie Brown Celebrates: Simple and Spectacular Parties All Year Round due in stores November 8.

According to Kim, “Katie will inspire you to host a party every month of the year. The premise of the book is excellent.”

If you entertain, Katie Brown Celebrates should provide lots of inspiration. If you don’t entertain but know someone who does, it will make a wonderful gift this holiday season.

The contest is open to all Canadian and U.S. residents excluding Quebec. To enter, first you’ll need to register at Places on Kim’s blog and “Praize” 3 places:

1. your favorite place to eat (i.e., restaurant, caterer, fine grocery shop, market, etc.)
2. your favorite shop for clothes, and
3. your favorite place to sleep (i.e., hotel, bed and breakfast, etc.)

Second you’ll need to leave a comment on Kim’s blog. The winners will be randomly selected. Check out the blog for instructions.

The contest closes on Oct. 22 at 11:59 p.m. There aren’t a lot of entries yet so the odds of winning are pretty high.

Good luck!
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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Arthur Mendonça - inventory clearance sale

Arthur Mendonça - inventory clearance sale - up to 80% off
Everything reduced!

Oct. 21, Oct. 22, Oct. 23
3:oo p.m.-8 p.m.

219 Dufferin St., Suite 112C (map)

Full payment required, cash/credit cards accepted

Call 416 536-2287 or email for more info.
Let us know what you get if you go.

TFI New Labels® seminar

In addition to the 40+ runway shows, during L’Oreal Fashion Week, the Toronto Fashion Incubator (TFI) will be presenting its annual TFI New Labels® seminar.

Guest speakers include designer David Dixon, National Post fashion writer Nathalie Atkinson and 2008 TFI New Labels® winner Eugenia Leavitt.

Friday, Oct. 24
2:oo p.m.

Fashion Environment tent
Nathan Phillips Square
100 Queen St. W. (map)

Tickets for the TFI New Labels® seminar are available online for $25.00+GST. For event information visit the TFI website.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hand-crafted gold jewelry sale

Hand-crafted gold jewelry by Israeli designer, Sholmit Lavi

Sunday, Oct. 19
11:oo a.m.-5 p.m.

1075 Spadina Rd. (See map)

Let us know what you get if you go.

Give to those in need on Blog Action Day

It’s Blog Action Day and poverty is this year’s theme. The idea is that bloggers around the world will help effect change by writing about a single social issue and raising awareness.

One of my pet peeves is when people have perfectly good stuff they throw away instead of donating it to someone in need. It really bothers me to walk through affluent neighbourhoods and see perfectly good furniture left on people’s lawns. I mean c’mon, there’s always Goodwill and plenty of other options.

This morning while getting ready for work, I had BT on and learned about The Furniture Bank. What an amazing concept! If you have some furniture or other basic household items you no longer need, you can arrange to have it picked up from your home – for a fee – and taken to The Furniture Bank. Check the list of exemptions.

At The Furniture Bank, with the assistance of knowledgeable staff, clients (homeless individuals and families who are in need and referred by their caseworkers) can select items they need for their new small apartments. Volunteers and financial donations are also needed.

Do you know of any other places where you can donate gently used clothing, furniture or other household items to help people in your community who are in need?

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Monday, October 13, 2008

A plethora of prenatal courses

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny discusses choosing prenatal education to suit your needs.

As an expecting mom, one of the things on my shopping list is prenatal education. Of course, there are prenatal courses ranging from beginner to refresher available at any major hospital, including the one my OB is affiliated with; but in this consumer-driven economy one should always shop around! You never know when you might find a course, class or workshop that is better suited to your needs, location, or price range.

For one thing, there are many different types of childbirth choices available to us moms-to-be these days. Hospital birth is just one. There’s also home birth, water birth, and any number of natural birth pain-relief options from massage to hypno-birthing. A recent google search for “prenatal education toronto” turned up hundreds of options – many right around the corner from me, that I hadn’t known about!

One such option in my neighborhood is Red Tent Sisters. In addition to courses and classes on female sexuality and women’s self-defense, they offer prenatal education and prenatal yoga courses. Some of their classes are a little bit crunchy granola for me, but the point is, it’s good to know there are options out there – and I encourage you to explore them.

Good news for moms and dads! Shopping for safe baby bottles just got a little easier with the Canadian government’s ban on Bisphenol-A in baby bottles. There’s still the question of its use in other products, most notably the linings of infant formula cans -- but this is definitely a step towards easing the fears of concerned parents.
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Down by The Bay

On the one hand The Bay is a Canadian icon I’d hate to see go away. On the other hand, I often think it’s long past its demise.

As a kid, especially one who grew up (in part) in a smaller Canadian urban city, I spent a lot of my shopping time and dollars in department stores. The Bay was one of them but now I do my best to avoid spending time there.

Here’s one reason why…

Mr. B wanted me to join him at Yorkdale so he could look for a new winter coat at The Bay – they were 30% off.

At first I thought I’d get off easy. As we made our way past the new Crate & Barrel (more about that later), he knew I was anxious to have a peek so he suggested I have a look and he’d go off to The Bay on his own. Whew!

Spoke to soon. Within minutes my phone rang. He found a basic winter wool-cashmere coat and wanted me to see it right away. So I ran over and made him try on all the sale coats only to agree with him that the first one was best. Hmm, I needed a winter coat too. So I headed upstairs to see what was on sale.

I saw 30% off signs everywhere. There were few exceptions and they were clearly(?) marked. At Max Studio, I found a shirtdress I liked and thought it would great for work. Just slip it on with some black tights and I’d be ready to go. The signage was a bit fuzzy, so I confirmed it was actually on sale with a salesperson tidying up some of the clothes on a nearby rack.

Next, off to the coats…

Not much caught my eye at first. Then I found a clearance rack marked “an extra 50% off”. Guess what? Nice coats and jackets were few and far between but there were a couple. Not necessarily my first choice but some were my size and at those prices, I couldn’t pass them by.

As I was trying them on another woman stopped and told me how nice they looked. I found the one I wanted – a Kenneth Cole black wool blend, winter trench – I was all set to go to the cash. Mr. B couldn’t believe the price <$100. He was sure someone made a mistake. I didn’t want to believe him. On our way to the cash, we passed by another part of the coat department. What did I see? You guessed it. A rack with each of the Kenneth Cole coats I had tried and all were regular price. Urgh!

I told the first salesperson I saw about the mix-up and suggested someone clean up the clearance rack so other customers wouldn’t be misled. She didn’t seem to care.

Well, at least I had the dress or so I thought. At the cash, I was told it wasn’t on sale either but I could get 10% off if I’d reinstate my Bay card. Ya, right.

Needless to say, I walked out empty-handed and won’t be going back to The Bay for a long time.

Have you had a similar experience at The Bay or another department store recently?

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Lida Baday’s sample sale - October 24

The one you’ve been waiting for is back...

Lida Baday’s semi-annual sample sale

Her collection is available in only the best department stores including:
It’s one great sale you won’t want to miss! Whether you’re looking for something sophisticated for a day at the office, a night out on the town or that special something for a holiday party, this Canadian designer is not to be missed.

Now that I’m slimmer and in need of some evening wear, I’m going. Are you?

Friday, Oct. 24
8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

70 Claremont St.. (See map.)

Let us know what you get if you go.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Safe shopping for the little ones

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny discusses BPA (Bisphenol-A) as it applies to baby products.

I’m usually pretty skeptical of alarmist news headlines announcing the latest toxic dangers to our health; but like most parents, when it comes to what my offspring puts in her mouth, I’m a paranoid worrywart. I subscribe to a number of parenting-related e-newsletters and magazines, and newsletter headlines such as “Why your child may be in danger from lead poisoning” are a surefire way to get me to click through.

Most recently there’s been a lot of media coverage on the safety issues surrounding BPA (Bisphenol-A), a commonly used plastic found in everything from food containers to baby bottles to canned goods. Naturally this issue has also been covered in many leading parenting magazines.

Now, it seems from my compulsive reading on this topic that in general, usage of BPA plastic may not necessarily result in chemicals leaching into our food, so long as one avoids heating the item in question – i.e. no heating up baby bottles in the microwave, or washing them in the dishwasher. But, my gut feeling is “better safe than sorry”, and as a result I’m always on the lookout for BPA-free products.

Thankfully, finding BPA-free baby gear is getting easier – if you can’t get to a local crunchy-granola health food store like The Big Carrot or Whole Foods, chain stories such as Toys R Us and Babies R Us now carry glass baby bottles and a selection of BPA-free sippy cups from such reliable brands as Born Free and Evenflo. Toxic Nation has a listing of BPA-free alternatives as well.

Do you have any tips on good sources for BPA-free gear?

Good news for moms and dads! Shopping for safe baby bottles just got a little easier with the Canadian government’s ban on Bisphenol-A in baby bottles. There’s still the question of its use in other products, most notably the linings of infant formula cans – but this is definitely a step towards easing the fears of concerned parents.
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Sunday, October 05, 2008

Announcing PodCamp Toronto 2009!

PodCamp Toronto 2009
It’s THE unconference for podcasting and social media in Toronto.

Have something to share?
Consider presenting. Sign up on the wiki.

February 21-22, 2009
You can register by adding your name to the wiki.

Rogers Communications Centre
Ryerson University (map)
Toronto, ON

How much?

Stay informed:
Check out the wiki
Subscribe to the blog
Follow @PodCampToronto on twitter
Join the Google group


I’m on the organizing team again. I’m not sure if I’ll have sole responsibility for sponsorship, but I’ll have a role to play. So if you’re interested, let me know.

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L’Oreal Fashion Week tickets on sale now!

L’Oreal Fashion Week
Tickets are on sale now. Full day, general public passes are now available ONLY on the F-list through online registration. Sign up as a new member or log into an existing account. See the event listings and daily schedule on F-list. Only a limited number available to the public.

October 20 – 25

Nathan Phillips Square
Toronto, ON

How much?
Consumer passes are $50/day and include all day and evening access to the main fashion week tents. Runway show seating is first come, first serve. You must be 19 or over to attend.

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Sharing from PodCamp Montreal

I attended PodCamp Montreal – a free unconference – where people from all over gathered to meet, learn and share information about podcasting and other forms of social media.

One of the rules of PodCamp is presentations are shared online. Many of the sessions were streamed live on

Check out the slide show from the session Connie Crosby and I gave about our new podcast

I was also part of a panel discussion with Kim Vallée, Michelle Sullivan, Rayanne Langdon and Isolde Legare, called “Managing the PR Beast: Building Relationships with PR Practitioners While Maintaining Credibility with Your Audience”. Simon Roy created an audio archive of our panel. He archived 10 presentations in all.

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