Friday, November 28, 2008

Black Friday and you

Today is the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. It’s called Black Friday and marks either the biggest shopping day of the year or the one day of the year when there’s no shopping depending on your point of view.

In Canada, December 1 is the day that traditionally kicks off the holiday shopping season. (Coincidentally it falls on Cyber Monday this year.)

With the current state of the economy, I’ve been contacted by a number of companies south of the border asking me to promote their sales.

As for me, I’m not changing my habits this year. I believe shopping will help stimulate the economy and I’ve been doing my fair share lately (stay tuned). As usual, I’ll focus my spending in Canada – that doesn’t mean I won’t be purchasing from U.S.-owned retailers — it means I prefer to do so here. I don’t have any plans to shop today but if I wanted a new computer I would.

Anyway, enough about me. I want to know about you. Will you be searching for deals today? Do you prefer to shop at home or spend your money south of the border? When do you start shopping for the holidays? Let’s get the discussion going.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

One of a Kind Show and Sale 2008

The One of a Kind Show and Sale starts tomorrow thru December 7. It’s a great way to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon, especially if you're looking to kick-start your holiday shopping and you like giving unique gifts and relish the idea of supporting Canadian talent.

800 artisans from across the country will be in Toronto for this wonderful semi-annual show. They’re displaying and selling there goodies all week. See everything from clothing to home accessories, unique foods and fabulous works of art.

Magazine Girl (pictured) is an awesome work of art by Andrea Turnbull. Can you believe the 1940s-inspired dress is hand-carved? I only wish I was as talented. You can find her at with her husband Matt at their Thyme of the Season booth.

Nov. 27 thru December 7
Weekdays: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Saturdays: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Sundays: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place (map)
Toronto, ON

Adults $12 or ($10 with coupon) online
Seniors & Youth $6.50
Children under 12 - free

What’s your favourite find?
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Toribellas’ Jewelry open house

I used to work with Laura. She’s a great woman who started making her own jewelry and started selling other popular lines under the Toribella banner as well. Laura asked me to invite you to her open house this weekend.

We’re also working together to bring you some specials in the new year when she launches Toribella Designs new website. Stay tuned for exciting details.

Toribella Designs is hosting it’s annual Holiday Open House
“Because you can never have enough jewelry”

Enjoy your holiday shopping in a relaxed and fun atmosphere without battling the crowds at the mall!

Toribella will have a wide selection of jewelry from some of Canada’s finest jewelry designers including:
Liss Designs
Glam Julz
Triple “C”
BellaDonna; and,
Foxy Originals.

They will also be showcasing their Columbian Inspirations line of fine sterling silver jewelry and assorted evening bags, silk pashminas, ESPE wallets and accessories.

Toribella supports Canadian entrepreneurs and Canadian handcrafted products – over 90% of their products are made in Canada.

Nov. 30: 2 p.m.-5 p.m.

156 Pemberton Rd. (map)
Richmondhill, ON

If you go, leave a comment and let us know what you find.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Pink Tartan sample sale - Nov. 25 and 26

Pink Tartan sample sale
A portion of all proceeds will be donated to the Toronto East General Hospital Foundation

Nov. 25: 4 p.m.-9 p.m.
Nov. 26: 12 noon-8 p.m.

27 Bathurst St. (map)
Toronto, ON

If you go, leave a comment and let us know what you find.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

Holiday bargains for kids and babies

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny continues sharing her holiday shopping experiences...

This past weekend I officially started my Christmas shopping. A bit late, I know – many of the more organized moms I know (including my own) set and meet a goal of being finished by Dec. 1st. Most of these high-achievers are already wrapping up their shopping (pun intended).

I’m not nearly so motivated. Although I do have a detailed list with ideas and inspirations for each person, my actual shopping usually requires a trigger of some kind. Sometimes it’s an upcoming event at which gifts are required, and sometimes it’s sheer panic as the calendar flips over to December!

Whatever the trigger, my first stop for holiday shopping is almost always the William Ashley warehouse sale. Held annually, the sale features bargains of up to 90% off on much more than the expected china, silverware, jewelry and glassware. In addition to bath items, chocolates, gift wrap, holiday d├ęcor, and more, there’s a decent-sized toy section offering discounts on name-brand items – everything from Kushies sleepers and clothes for babies, to Gund stuffed animals, to a variety of Hannah Montana gear for pre-teens.

This year I picked up a number of items and managed to finish off about half of my list in one single, 2-hour visit. I’d love to divulge the bargains I scooped up… But my family reads this blog, so I’m going to refrain in order to avoid spoiling anyone’s Christmas surprise!

Friends of mine swear by the Samko & Miko Toy Warehouse this time of year. The toy distributor features bargains of up to 90% off name-brand toys, and there are multiple locations. I have to confess though, that reports of mile-long checkout lines even in the middle of the day have kept me away. If you go, or have gone in the past, please tell us about it in the comments!

If bargains aren’t your primary motivator and you’re more interested in finding something really distinctive for the little one(s) in your life, you can’t do better than the One of a Kind show and sale. You have to buy tickets (which allow reentry), but the amazing number of truly unique items crafted by artisans is unparalleled. You’ll be sure to find something for even the kid who has everything.

Do you have a go-to for your holiday toy shopping? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The cheapest toys are the best

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny shares her thoughts about kids toys...

I was thrilled to learn recently about the newest entry into the American National Toy Hall of Fame: the stick.

“Curators said the stick was a special addition in the spirit of a 2005 inductee, the cardboard box. They praised its all-purpose, no-cost, recreational qualities, noting its ability to serve either as raw material or an appendage transformed in myriad ways by a child's creativity. ‘It's very
open-ended, all-natural, the perfect price there aren't any rules or instructions for its use,’ said Christopher Bensch, the museum's curator of collections.”

This is quite a contrast from the latest toys and gadgets for kids that are being advertised for Christmas… such as Kota the Triceratops, a “life-size” baby dinosaur that “comes to life with realistic electronic sounds and motion” available now for only $299!

As a cheapskate parent, I find this news very reassuring. Sure, I’d love to have the disposable income to shell out for Kota – and don’t tell my 4-year-old that such a thing exists or I will never hear the end of the plaintive pleading! – but I know in my heart that my little girl will have more fun and make greater leaps developmentally by using her imagination to turn a cardboard box into a fort, a string into a lasso, a coffee filter into a crown, and a stick into a sword.

But of course, my kid will not find a stick in her stocking this Christmas! More on bargain shopping for quality holiday gifts next week…

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Bargains Group 2008 warehouse sale

The Bargains Group Friends and Family Warehouse Sale - Don’t miss this annual blowout! It’s a good old-fashioned warehouse sale with savings up to 80% off retail prices.

Bring the coupon above and you’ll save an additional $5 off purchases over $50 (excluding tax).
Ask for your free “Bargainista Fashion Gift.” (I’m not sure what it is but I’m told it has a $28 retail value.)

The Bargains Group is only open to the public once a year. Need to stock up on basics? Buying items to donate to charities over the holidays? If you’re a true bargain hunter, this is one sale you won’t want to miss!

Weekends starting Nov. 14 thru Dec. 24
Fridays: 3 p.m.-7 p.m.
Saturdays: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.
Sundays: 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

The Bargains Group (see map)
890 Caledonia Rd.
Toronto, ON
(south of Lawrence, betw. Keele and Dufferin)

If you go, leave a comment and let us know what you find.

Note: The owner is a friend of mine.

Tags: The Bargains Group, great deals, stocking stuffers, warehouse sales

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Sale and fundraiser at Sharon's Collection

My friend Perla works part-time at Sharon’s Collection and she asked me to tell you about a special sale they’re having on Thursday night. Part of the proceeds (sorry, they didn’t give me the deets) will go to SickKids. I like supporting local retailers, especially those who give back to the community.

Sharon’s is a fun little shop so if you have a chance, you may want to check it out.

A one-night only special evening at Sharon’s Collection with special discounts, champagne, treats and a visit from designer Bella Donna.
A portion of the proceeds will help support SickKids and degenerative diseases.

Sharon’s Collection (map)
1541B Bayview Ave.
Toronto, ON

Nov. 13: 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m.
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Monday, November 10, 2008

Winter outerwear for mother and daughter

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny goes shopping for a winter maternity coat and outerwear for her big sister to-be...

Even though we’ve been enjoying unseasonably warm weather, this week I couldn’t ignore the long-range forecast or the fact that I am, very soon, going to be in need of winter coats. One for myself to cover the growing belly, as none of my current coats can button up over the bump anymore; and one for my 4-year-old because I know as soon as the snow flies she’ll want to be outside rolling around in it.

I’d heard about the M coat – a marvelous creation by Canadian Spirit Downwear that adapts to the 3 stages of maternity thanks to a zip-out A-line front panel. Worn with the panel zipped in an “A” shape, it snugly covers a bump; worn with the panel zipped in a “V”, you can squire your newborn around town in a baby bjorn and keep them snug. And of course, with the panel zipped out, it’s a lovely parka for when I’m (hopefully) back to pre-pregnancy shape.

Unfortunately the only place I’ve been able to find that is currently stocking the M Coat is Sporting Life – and it’s very expensive! At $480 I can’t help but wonder if I’m better off just buying two different coats, one A-line maternity number and a parka for afters. What’s making me lean towards splurging is the ability to zip my baby into the coat when in a front carrier and avoid having to push a stroller through the snow in order to enjoy the great outdoors.

I still haven’t decided whether to go for it – partly because I’m still waiting for my chosen size and color to come in stock at Sporting Life. Maybe the delay is a blessing – an opportunity to comparison shop. (If anyone has any hot tips, let me know in the Comments!)

I had much better luck finding a coat and snow pants for my little girl. After some comparison shopping at various stores (Sears, Zellers), I couldn’t find anything that was up to my standards, so I went straight to my old standby: Gap Kids. I know, it belies my “babyBargainista” title but I love their coat and snow pant combos and in 3 years of buying winter gear for my daughter I’ve yet to find anything comparable.

I like that Gap Kids offers a selection of separates in various colors that you can mix-and-match (brown, pink, white, and silver). Their sizing and fit is perfect for my extra-tall girl. And the construction is impeccable – inside cuffs on both coat and pants, inside layer snaps on the coat so it won’t ride up, detachable hood and detachable fur trim, fully height-adjustable snowpants (very important for growing kids), a side zipper on the pants for easy on-off – all these elements make the combo well worth the $120 (combined) price tag.

What’s your go-to for winter gear?

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Breast Fest Film Festival 2008

You’re probably familiar with the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer t-shirts Roots sells every year. Did you know all net proceeds go to Rethink Breast Cancer? Rethink is a Canadian volunteer-driven charity helping young people who are concerned about and affected by breast cancer. Funds raised go toward education, research and support programs.

When it comes to fundraising, Rethink does a lot more than sell t-shirts. This year they’re trying something new and exciting… Breast Fest Film Festival 2008 – the world’s first film festival dedicated to breast cancer awareness. Through a variety of film genres and new media, Breast Fest will be showcasing many issues surrounding breast cancer in significant and interesting ways, and connecting people to the breast cancer cause. Why don’t you check it out…

Breast Fest Film Festival 2008

Royal Ontario Museum (map)
100 Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON

Nov. 21 & 22

Buy tickets now.
Prices range from $10-$25 per showing.

UPDATE (Nov. 11, 2008)
I am officially helping Rethink Breast Cancer promote the Breast Fest Film Festival 2008.
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Friday, November 07, 2008

rk sample warehouse and holiday sale

rk sample warehouse and holiday sale

Studio Gallery (map)
294 College St. , 2F

Nov. 13: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. (VIP hours - let me know if you want a pass)
Nov. 13: 4 p.m.-8 p.m.
Nov. 14-15: 11 a.m.- 8 p.m.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Conair’s Infiniti Nano Silver Steam Straightener helps me tame the beast

I was thrilled when the kind folks at Thornley Fallis asked me if I’d be interested in learning more about Conair’s new Infiniti Nano Silver Steam Straightener.

Anyone who knows me knows I have lots of hair that naturally is neither straight nor curly but somewhere oddly in between.

I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a flat iron for a couple of years. I’ve tried a few but always found them hard to handle and I never got great results.

The Infiniti Nano Silver Steam Straightener has two steam settings, three height settings for the detangling comb and several heat settings. My hair is thick and coarse which makes it challenging to say to the least, so I’ve been using it with steam and always on the highest setting.

When I learned they were actually giving me my very own hair straightener, I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to try it out. For the past three weeks or so, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing:
washing hair at night, straightening the next day
washing hair in the morning, blow drying then straightening
air drying my hair, straightening once it’s dry
and so on…

It handles easily. I find it lighter than conventional flat irons but that’s probably because apart from the tourmaline ceramic-coated plates (apparently they help prevent you from damaging your hair), it’s made from lightweight plastic metal. I can straighten my hair in about 15 minutes – a bit quicker than my flat iron experiences.

It works! I find it works best if my hair is bone dry otherwise, it ends up a bit frizzy. My hair doesn’t look as good as when I’ve had it straightened at the salon but I’m pretty happy with the results regardless. I’ve been on the fence about whether or not to use a protective product at the same time. I’m not sure if it’s necessary because the steam is supposed to help condition my hair as it straightens. What do you think?

As for the price, compared to flat irons typically costing about $200 and up, Conair’s Infiniti Nano Silver Steam Straightener retails for $99. Not bad.

And now for an infomercial moment...
There’s a special offer on their website where you can get a 30-day trial and a bunch of accessories for $14.99 – the cost of shipping. If you decide to keep the goods, you can make three monthly payments of $39.99 each.

And there’s more…
Check out Tame the Beast for a chance to win one of four Grand Prizes of “Total Hair & Beauty Makeover” worth up to $1,000 PLUS a gift basket of Conair hair-related products and John Frieda styling products worth up to $500!

Update: I hope you enjoyed the video. I found it on YouTube.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

The One Hundred - are you a stylish woman?

Book cover of The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own by Nina Garcia and illustrated by Ruben Toledo.

You may remember I thoroughly enjoyed The Little Black Book of Style. So, when HarperCollins Canada told me about Nina Garcia’s latest book, The One Hundred: A Guide to the Pieces Every Stylish Woman Must Own, I wasn’t shy and asked for a copy right away.

(I guess I owe them a huge apology. It took me a while to get around to reading the book and even longer to write this post, which is not to say I didn’t enjoy it – I did. I enjoyed it very much in fact. I’ve just been focusing on other things. What can I say… such is life for a hobbyist blogger. )

Unlike Garcia’s first book, there wasn’t any empowering message this time around but I found it just as valuable, if not more so.

I own a mere 36 of the one-hundred-must-have pieces. I’m not sure whether I should be disappointed because according to Garcia, I’m nowhere near being a stylish woman; or, whether I should be happy because it means I have a lot of shopping to do in order to get all the necessary classics into my closet.

Garcia’s list is wide-ranging and includes:
Blackberry (with a list of links to er favourite websites)
black opaque tights (one of my fave s and on this season’s “must-have” list)
classic pearls
little black dress
little white dress (I can do without one of those, can you?)
safari jackets (I didn’t know YSL made them a high fashion item 50 years ago, did you?); and,
yoga gear (unfortunately she asks us to promise not to wear yoga pants on an airplane – was she spying on me?).

I also liked the way she organized her list – alphabetically – shares the history of specific styles via “fashion 101” sidebars and enlightens us about the designer and/or celebrity who made them famous.

Garcia does a great job of sharing where you can buy specific items, when to invest the big bucks and when you can save your hard-earned cash. If I have one criticism it’s that she could have done a better job of telling you where to buy things for less.

As always, part of the charm of her books is the wonderful illustrations throughout by Ruben Toledo. The One Hundred is a quick read and one book you’ll want to keep on hand. It also makes a perfect gift for someone who needs a new wardrobe whether she’s recently lost a lot of weight, needs an intervention from the folks at What Not to Wear or a bit of both.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Premium Retail Group featuring GUESS? Jeans warehouse sale

Premium Retail Group featuring GUESS? Jeans warehouse sale - Nov. 26-30 - International Centre, Mississauga

Get ready for the winter with some hot deals on the greatest fashions from GUESS! Save from 60-90% off on denim, handbags, jackets, tops, sweaters, dresses and more! Fashions for both Men and Women!
More info

Nov. 26, 12 noon - 9 p.m. (register for VIP preview)
Nov. 27, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Nov. 28, 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Nov. 29, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Nov. 30, 11 a.m. - 7 p.m.

International Centre, Hall 4 (see map)
6900 Airport Rd.
Mississauga, Ontario
L4V 1E8

Note: This is a sponsored post. The links don’t work in the graphic above but the links are available in the “What?” section.
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Bump shopping - the results

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny shares her experience finding chic maternity wear...

A while ago I posted about dressing the belly – finding chic, inexpensive maternity clothes once my belly got too big for even my “fat pants”. I hit that point recently and set off downtown in search of seasonal, work-appropriate clothes.

Alas, my hope for something that would allow me to adapt my existing summer-focused maternity wardrobe was dashed; not a maternity cardigan in sight. In fact I didn’t have much luck overall at my first stop, Motherhood Maternity. It seemed like they were still in the process of turning over their inventory from summer to fall, as most of the displays featured heavily discounted summer-weight short-sleeved tops.

I did try on a number of items there but found most of them ill-fitting at my current stage, and perhaps better suited to later pregnancy; I walked out with just a couple of maternity undershirts, hoping that by layering I can continue to stretch out (literally!) my pre-pregnancy wardrobe of long- and quarter-sleeved shirts through the chilly fall.

My next stop, Thyme Maternity, was much more successful. They too had summer stock on sale, and I picked up a couple of t-shirts for layering at 2 for $29; but they also had a wide range of fall items, from casuals like maternity cords (very comfortable) and cotton turtlenecks, to work wear like suits and blouses. I jumped at the chance to pick up a few blouses at 25% off – a bit lightweight, but in lovely jewel tones appropriate for fall and winter and easily layered under a jacket for extra warmth (a sample is pictured here).

Thyme also featured some great in-store deals. With every pant purchase you got $10 off a sweater, so I picked up some lovely dress pants (pictured here) and a very flattering sweater. Both fit like a dream and I was tempted to wear them straight out of the store! The sales clerk told me that Thyme features different deals weekly, to encourage repeat visits; so I may return to see what new deals I can find on more winter-weight maternity wear.

My only complaint is that the Eaton Centre store I was at had only one sweater left in my size, in just one color. I asked the clerk if they would ship another sweater for me in the other color from another location, and they would – but they wouldn’t hold it for me for more than 24 hours. That surprised me as it’s not always convenient for customers to rush to the nearest store to pick up special orders, especially with only 5 locations scattered around the GTA, and only one (the Eaton Centre) downtown. I asked if I could order it from their website, but was informed that the site was not commerce-enabled – another disappointment for such a large and well-known chain!