Monday, September 28, 2009

Timex for a Good Cause!

I have a strange obsession with Timex watches. I’ve had it for several years now. Perhaps the seed was planted when I received one for Christmas when I was six — my mom wears it now. They make several styles that I'd gladly wear, especially the SL Series Automatic (which retails for only $275!):

While people may scoff at wrists donning affordably priced timepieces, I admire them. Timex makes some beautiful specimens and I strongly believe that wearing one is effortlessly and confidently chic. (To me, the true mark of a stylish person is one that makes original and unexpected choices and hits that balance between contrived and carefree.)

Style and opinion aside, here’s another reason to love Timex. Today only (September 28), when you vote for your favorite watch style the company will donate $1 to B.I.G. (Booby Innovation Grant), a fund created by the Boobyball — an annual fundraiser conceived of by The Society Girls Ashleigh Dempster and Amanda Blakley — in support of Rethink Breast Cancer and young survivors. As many of you know, my nephew is a survivor of cancer, and we have to do everything we can to eradicate this disease. Go here to vote:

Don’t get me wrong, I’d throw my Timex over the Grand Canyon if someone offered me a Rolex. But here’s the thing: the Timex would still be ticking after plummeting to the ground. I like that! And I LOVE a good cause.

For more information about the Boobyball, go to 

Friday, September 18, 2009

Taboo Tabu

On my eternal quest for fragrance bliss, today I stopped by Shoppers Drugmart to try out some cheap perfumes (I believe that some of the classics drugstore scents can hold up to the expensive department stores ones). To prove this theory I figured I’d go try Tabu by Dana.

Tabu is known to be one of the best of the cheap scents. It recently won best mass-marketed fragrance on (which I LOVE!), but apparently not everyone feels the same way I do about this potentially wonderful scent.

As I perused the unlocked portion of the fragrance section, I noticed that while there were several boxes of Tabu, there was no tester. The saleslady — a relatively adorable middle aged woman who DEFINITELY shouldn’t be selling cosmetics — was busy ringing up a sale, so I picked up a Stetson, a couple Jovans and a few versions of Charlie to pass the time.

When the saleslady was free I asked her if she had a Tabu tester hiding somewhere. She said that they never have a Tabu tester available. I assumed that the scent was so good people couldn’t resist stealing it. She replied, “No it smells so awful we don’t want people spraying it.”

Now, do I trust this flaxen-haired middle-aged woman with missing teeth? Or do I continue the hunt for a Tabu I can spray? I also want to find an Old Spice, Tabu’s old-time fragrance partner in crime. Does anyone out there have a dirty little drugstore perfume habit?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Short'n'Chic: Greeting Cards by Cynthia

My friend Cynthia is a very talented scrapbooker who also makes amazing greeting cards! I’m currently obsessed with her latest creation:

Isn’t that the cutest thing you’ve ever seen? I love that it’s retro and whimsical while still being meaningful. Read more about Cynthia’s projects at her blog “Life, by Paper” (

Hallmark, watch out!

Friday, September 11, 2009

New Fragrance of Note — Vanilla & Anise by Jo Malone

Allow me to tell you a little secret: I often go to Holt Renfrew for no other reason than to spray myself with Jo Malone Cologne. I high-tail it past the innovative window displays, scoot past the Creed counter, and march past Kiehl’s... And while a bevy of irresistibly touchable Gucci and Marni bags beckon to my right, and racks and racks of Prada and Bamford & Sons suits are lined up to my left, I resist them all. When I need my fix of Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin or Sweet Lime & Cedar even the new shipment of Ralph Lauren ties needs to wait. There, I’ve said it. RALPH LAUREN takes a back seat when I want to smell good. Imagine my joy to learn that Jo Malone is adding another cologne to their already impressive collection. Introducing Vanilla & Anise.

Vanilla is one of the most important and valuable ingredients in the perfume industry; however, in the past few years it has been used in a dubious way. Instead of adding depth and exoticism to fragrances, the trend has been for perfumers to use vanilla the same way a baker would. The term “I could just eat you up” isn’t meant to be literal, is it? You shouldn’t really smell edible, should you? That shouldn’t be your thing... should it? Look what happened to Hansel and Gretel. While the aroma of marshmallows, chocolate bars and freshly baked cookies is delicious, it isn’t necessarily refined or elegant. Have you ever really respected someone who’s smelled like a sugar cookie? Keebler Elves are adorable, but you don’t want them to rebrand your business. Vanilla & Anise is a wildly heady and dramatic example of how vanilla could be (and should be) used.
Upon contact with the skin, Vanilla & Anise smells like nothing I’ve ever tried before. The licorice combination of star anise and wild fennel flower immediately pops, and then folds into layers of white flowers like oleander, tuberose and frangipani. All the while, the base of vanilla, amber and cloves opens up as it warms on the skin. The blend of vanilla and white flowers is really quite brilliant, actually. The vanilla adds a creamy lusciousness to the flowers, while the flowers make the vanilla more abstract and mysterious. The scent promises to transport you to the flowering valleys of Madagascar! While I’ve never had a chance to visit the island, I’m now convinced it smells divine.
Jo Malone is famous for creating deceptively simple scents that can be worn alone or layered with other colognes from the line. They call this process Fragrance Combining. Vanilla & Anise would be great in combination with a bright citrus like Grapefruit Cologne, or the earthy Vetyver Cologne. Of course, the sky is the limit. There are endless combinations that could appeal to you and provide you with a personalized scent. Jo Malone is also famous for inventing classic scents that are suitable for men and women, like the venerable Lime Basil & Mandarin. Vanilla & Anise is definitely not unisex (or at least not in my opinion). It is very feminine, luxurious and sensual.
Bottom line: I could see a very feminine woman of any age wearing this scent, either lightly (or in combination with citrus) during the day, or a little more boldly at night. It’s an exotic and confident blend that is very modern without being trendy. 
The breakdown: Top notes — Sicilian Bergamot, Tunisian Neroli, Wild Fennel, Star Anise. Middle notes — Oleander, Tuberose, Frangipani, Purple Vanilla Orchid. Base notes — Madagascar Clove, White Amber, Vetiver Bourbon, Vanilla Bourbon Absolute, Tonka
Vanilla & Anise Cologne 30 mL — $70
Vanilla & Anise Cologne 100 mL —$118
Available exclusively in Canada at Holt Renfrew (,

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Date With Be-spoken: Best Coffee in Toronto!

I love coffee. When I go to bed at night, the thought of my morning cup lulls me to sleep. When I wake up in the morning, the thought of that very same cup jolts me out of bed. While I will write about my favorite coffees to brew at home in a different post, I would like to talk a bit about my favorite coffee shops in Toronto.

I tend to drink American-style coffee. While I love lattes and cappuccinos, there is nothing more satisfying that a lonnnnnnng shot of espresso or a great brewed coffee (with cream). I know this crazy talk offends the gods of java, but their logic is something I've never fully understood: Coffee purists advocate espresso-based drinks, but espresso as we know it today was invented in around 1900. Before that people brewed their coffee. Wouldn't the purists reject this newfangled gadgetry and opt for the ancient Ethiopian tradition of table-side roasting and service in clay pots? I guess my point is, drink what you like and leave the judging to nobody.

That being said, of course my selections are geared towards my taste. And that being said, I think my taste level is very high... so here goes. In no particular order, my favorite coffee shops in Toronto:

  • Patachou (1120 Yonge Street, 416-927-1105) — I have a special place in my heart for Patachou. To me, everything about the place is perfect, from the food (especially the croissants and macaroons), to the décor (the perfect blend of old-meets-new French design), and yes, to the coffee. Served in very Parisian-feeling bowls, the lattes are definitely the most popular beverage consumed at Patachou; however, it's their Americanos that I crave. If you like a robust cup, order their double Americano and ask the server to not add hot water. Trust me, you'll be in heaven. Patachou's drip coffee is not to be ignored, either. I once brought a bag of this coffee home for Christmas and my family went wild for it. My sister-in-law now gets me to ship it to her home in Vernon (it's called the Patachou blend, if you want to ask for it by name). Added bonus: the crowd at Patachou is always the most interesting blend of people. You never know who you'll see.

  • Caffe Brasiliano (849 Dundas Street West, 416-603-6607) — I swear a regular customer at Patachou recommended Caffe Brasiliano to me. Upon this recommendation I visited the venerable Dundas West location and loved it. When I raved about the experience to said customer, she claimed she'd never heard of the place. Go figure. I guess it was the hand of providence... funny, providence leads me to great coffee shops, yet I'm still single? I digress. I wouldn't say Caffe Brasiliano is the most elegant room in Toronto, or the food the most refined (actually I don't recommend the food); however, I am confident the coffee is some of the best you'll ever have in the city. Again, I am familiar with their strong double Americano — amazing. Added bonus: the bar seating at the windows facing Dundas Street is the perfect people-watching perch.

  • Mercury Espresso Bar (915 Queen Street East, 647-435-4779, — Remember when I mentioned coffee purists in my introduction? I was thinking about these guys when I wrote that. In this case I don't really care where their coffee politics lean because their end-product is amazing. Truth be told though, Mercury Espresso Bar is one of those love-it-or-hate-it experiences. The music is always really loud and they play really hip stuff like... well I'm so unhip that I have no idea what they play, and you'll feel 50% more showered (and 50% less trendy) when you see the carefully disheveled baristas. BUT, and this is a big but, they really care about coffee. They are the grand champions of micro foam, the head honchos of créma, the captains of the latte art ship. Thank God for these guys, because nobody else on the East side knows how to make a decent cup of coffee. Added bonus: while the barista girl who wears over-sized glasses (I don't think they're prescription) and under-sized jeans will actively ignore you, she makes a mean Americano.
  • b Espresso Bar (111 Queen Street East, 416-866-2111, — Where do the fashionistas of Toronto go for their daily jolt of java? I'm not sure, could you tell me? I need to start networking... just kidding. They go to the very Italian b Espresso Bar, of course! The place is always buzzing with fancy PR people, designers, magazine editors and well-to-doers, but this isn't the only reason to visit. Their coffee — both espresso-based and brewed — is amazing. And while they too take coffee seriously (often starting drinks over if they don't come out perfectly), here the customer is king. (There are no judgements when you order a small brewed coffee and load it with cream like me.) Added bonus: b Espresso Bar is perhaps one of the most beautifully designed cafés I've ever patronized.
This is in no way a comprehensive list. I'm a creature of habit, so my hunt for the perfect cup of coffee dissipates as I discover amazing outposts like these ones. I would love to know where my readers go for their favorite cup of coffee. Please comment!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Deal of the Week — Joe Fresh Style

Buffalo Check Wellies, $29; Felt Hat, $14; Knit Gloves, $9. All by Joe Fresh Style.
At Loblaws and Superstores across Canada.

Every season, I'm infinitely impressed with the way Joe Fresh Style provides shoppers across Canada with affordable — and very chic — fashions. While not every community may have a Banana Republic, Club Monaco or some other reasonably priced outlet, most centres have a Loblaws or Superstore that sells the Joe Fresh clothing line. (I really expect to see the men, women and children of middle Canada kicking it up a notch style-wise. No excuses!)

Ten years ago, the Canadian shopping scene was very different. If you wanted to find fashions for less, you truly got what you paid for — in quality and style. Things were different south of the border, though. The Target (tar-jay) phenomenon made thrifty fashion, well, fashionable. And it wasn't until Joe Mimran was tapped by Loblaws to create Joe Fresh that we Northerners could buy fashion forward clothing for miserly prices.

This season is no different for the Joe Fresh line. There are several amazing pieces available, especially outerwear, but I chose to highlight three accessories I think would punch up any outfit. While you may have to take a few moments to scope out the collection’s pleated skirts and ruffled shirts, try them on and make a final buying decision, you can easily breeze into the accessories aisle in between stops at the produce section and the deli and buy a pair of gloves or a cute hat.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New Fragrance of the Week — Hypnôse Senses by Lancôme

I cannot stop smelling my wrist! As I'm sure you all know, I'm a fragrance hound. One of my favorite pastimes is going to the fragrance counter at Shoppers Drugmart (yes, you'd be amazed at their selection) and smelling as many perfumes as I can. Of course, the heady florals and spicy Orientals can overwhelm the senses; thankfully, the addition of coffee beans at most locations can easily double my daily intake.

But which fragrance is lucky enough to actually make it onto my wrist? While I may spritz several cards, wave them back and forth and nod my head in approval as the salesperson is explaining the gift with purchase, only one lucky scent makes it onto my body for the full day. Yes, one scent graduates to the true test — how will this perfume smell in eight hours?

It is 10 AM and I just sprayed Hypnôse Senses by Lancôme onto my wrist; however, my first impression of the famous French cosmetics house's latest offering comes before I click the atomizer: The glass bottle — reminiscent of a twisting female form — fits perfectly into my hand, and the soft-pink liquid inside promises to be as feminine as the bottle. (Please note that I will wear any fragrance — women's or men's — in the name of Be-spoken.)

The scent that emerges as I spray is slightly unexpected, though. It's spicier than I had anticipated, nothing like the peony-pink waft I thought I'd get. Instead, a deeper, more mysterious fragrance is left on my wrist. Suddenly, I'm a little classier than I was at 9:59.

At the heart of Hypnôse Senses is a combination of patchouli and osmanthus. The patchouli gives it an earthy, woodsy feel, while the osmanthus (a flowering shrub native to warm-climate regions of Asia) provides a unique blend of apricot and leather. Rounding out the fragrance are top notes of peppercorn, rose and mandarin, and base notes of benzoin and vanilla. While the fragrance is categorized as a chypre (woodsy, mossy fragrances that usually feature a citrusy top note), it's really a modern twist to the category, with added hints of sweetness and florals.

This perfume is made for the woman who wants to steer away from the new-wave crop of single-note scents on the market to a more traditional-yet-modern perfume that is at once complex and mysterious. While this is not the scent your mother wore, it is a little bit nostalgic of the days when women had signature scents, and were remembered by them. Isn't that what we all hope for — to be remembered?

The ad campaign for Hypnôse Senses — courtesy of artistic director Fabien Baron (also responsible for provocative campaigns for Calvin Klein) and photographer Mikael Jansson — certainly leaves a lasting impression. It features Canadian supermodel Daria Werbowy as a vixen with tousled hair looking mischievously into the camera. I imagine the setting to be a Parisian apartment, and Daria is about to put on her lover's white dress shirt and make coffee to drink in bed... Why do I equate coffee with sensuality?

Bottom line: I could see Hypnôse Senses being the fragrance a young woman would buy the day before she starts her first big job. While she doesn't want to give up her girly, youthful ways, she does want to make a serious first impression. To some, her scent would say, "I'm a confident young woman," and to others it would say, "I like to flirt." She could go from the office, straight to dinner, then dancing and her perfume would be fitting for all occasions.

Hypnôse Senses 30 ml - $52
Hypnôse Senses 50 ml - $70
Hypnôse Senses 75 ml - $92

Available at Shoppers Drug Marts across the country,