Category Archives: local

Review: Snakes & Lattes Cafe, Toronto

I have a new favourite cafe where there is rarely a seat, the service is slow and the coffee mediocre.

 

BUT THEY HAVE BOARD GAMES. THOUSANDS OF THEM.

I love the concept of Snakes and Lattes, a board game cafe located just west of Bathurst station on Bloor St. In Toronto.

A $5 cover charge gets you in for an unlimited amount of time to play as many of their board games as you like. The place is crammed with tables, which are in turn crammed with folks of all stripes playing board game after board game.

A staff of young (and cute!) men man the cafe, serving up sandwiches, coffees, booze and sweet treats. They are all knowledgeable on board games and can help you find one, make recommendations and even play a couple of rounds with you! All in their official job description 😉

My friends and I have been there twice now, within that many weeks. We love the atmosphere, the eye candy and the wide selection of board games!

Both times we have spent hours there, sipping our lattes and enjoying a variety of games. The staff were helpful, recommending a new game for us, then even playing a few rounds so we could get the hang of it. Very nice indeed!

The hours of operation are pretty great, too. From 11am-2am every day gives you lots of timing options. And you’ll need them.

One of the downsides to S&L is that it’s a little too popular. It’s hard to get in, with wait times exceeding an hour on occasion. The place is also packed, making it noisy, squished and negatively affecting the service. This plays out in a couple of ways: poor coffee and food quality, slow service and in some cases, dirty dishes/cutlery (the dishwasher just can’t keep up!).

But once you’re in there and playing, you hardly notice any of that!

 

S&L is still relatively new, so I hope that they will continue to iron out the kinks in their shop. I would love to see them expand into another location, and also offer some better pricing options such as a loyalty card with discounts or free admission, or waiving the cover charge if you purchase a certain amount at the cafe.

All in all I think it’s a great place, and will definitely be back! Keep your eyes peeled for the chick having a little too much fun playing Mad Gab, Monopoly or You Might Be A Redneck If…!

Jessica Biffi Collection @ Addition-Elle

Well, there’s really  no excuse for me not writing any longer. Things have settled down a bit so I thought I’d hammer something out on a cool experience lately.

Last week I teamed up with The Asian Pear and Melanie for a shopping expedition! As loyal members of the Addition-Elle rewards club, we were invited to the launch party for Jessica Biffi’s new ready to wear collection at Addition-Elle.

The event included a night of shopping at the flagship store at Yonge & Temperance with hors d’oeuvres, fancy drinks, door prizes and a chance to hang out with Jessica B herself!

It was a blast. I love shopping parties, but I love shopping for my fat clothes even more! As plus size women we are rarely represented, so I was tres excited to check out the new Biffi line.

In case you don’t know who Jessica is, I’ll fill you in. She was a contestant on Project Runway and a plus-size woman herself. In fact she used to work at that Addition-Elle location! After the show was over she was able to slide into the fashion scene and has been busy with a bunch of shows. She recently signed on with AE to design a women’s wear capsule for AE, Penningtons and MXM.

Jessica is a very talented designer, so needless to say I was waiting with bated breath to see how her designs would translate not only to mass, but also to plus size fashion. I had high hopes, but tried to keep them low. As anyone can attest to, plus-size fashion these days is going down the tubes. Styles are trashy, ill-fitting, poorly constructed and quickly moving away from comfortable and durable natural fibers to a heavier mix of synthetics which no one likes!!!

I realize that trying to design clothing that flatters the majority of customers can be a very difficult thing to do. But my reasoning is that if Jessica Biffi can do it, why can’t plus-size retailers hire more designers like her? No one wants to wear a polyester tent.

Whew! Now that I’ve got that off my chest,

let’s talk about the clothes!

Overall, I was pleased with the Biffi collection. While many of the materials used were synthetics, they were markedly better than what AE traditionally uses. The colours were vibrant, the cuts and draping were flattering to many of the women there (I camped out in the change rooms for a while so I can say this with truth!).

The construction was also superior to what is normally offered (again, why can’t ALL the clothes be like that?). I was a little sad that the collection was so small, but I guess for a first run it ain’t bad.

On the rack, the garments didn’t really look like much, to be honest. The website doesn’t do them justice, either. What I was most impressed by with the collection was that the garments looked good on the bodies of the  majority of women who tried them on. Personally I looked fantastic in everything except for the red dress, but I blame the awful bubble hem and pleating for that. It looked off on a lot of people.

I think I tried on just about everything, but here’s what I bought in the end:

Jessica Biffi printed top with knotted back

Jessica Biffi solid top with knotted back

Jessica Biffi red trench coat

My favourite item has got to be the red trench. I am in love with it. I have worn it every single day since I got it, even when it was too cold to do so! I like that it’s made of cotton, and the belt and collar are very flattering on me. And of course the colour. The COLOUR! I love red. I am known for red. It is a colour you don’t wear lightly. I love the bold statement this trench makes. It catches the eye–I see people looking at me everywhere I go! (BTW, Mel got this coat and it looks fab on her, too!)

I love the two shirts, too. I tried on the coloured one at the insistence of… someone? haha I can’t even remember since I was talking with so many ladies that night! It looks kind of blah on the rack, and also on the model up there. What you really need is a nice wide belt to spice things up! There is a belt in the JB collection but it’s not on the site. Any wide belt would do, though. It balances out the tunic top (over leggings, jeggings or skinny jeans!) enhances the bust area and makes everything look a little bit better. Magic. I use the belt for both tops and go from day to evening easily!

I almost bought the pair of skinny jeans on offer too, but sadly I ran out of money. Hooo boy those things are tight! But they’re supposed to be. It must be incredibly difficult to design a skinny jean for fat girls, but somehow Jessica has done it! I loved the dark wash of the jeans, and they way they hugged my curves. They looked fantastic with the two tops I purchased and I only wish I could have got them! Anyone reading this want to send me a pair?

All in all it’s a great start for Jessica in mass, and hopefully a sign of things to come from both her and the plus-size retail world!

I met the president

One thing I also want to mention about the evening is that I had the distinct pleasure of conversing with Kerry Mitchell, president of Addition-Elle herself! Of course I shared my thoughts with her on the state of plus-size fashion and my sentiments outlined above (what blogger wouldn’t grab that opportunity?!) and I quizzed her on what AE plans for the future.

Looks like we may be in luck! According to Kerry, AE is interested in doing a fall collection with Jessica Biffi. Talks have not yet begun with the designer but I think everyone’s fingers are crossed that this will go through. According to Canada NewsWire Group, the collection has been a hit with consumers so we can only hope to see more of JB’s fab fashions at our local shops.

Wanna know something that made me feel really good? Kerry herself is a plus-size woman. It’s nice to know that “one of us” is running the company. She was also delightful to speak with.

I met the designer

I also got a chance to hang out with Jessica at the event. She is one cool cat. And she buys her shoes at H&M! LOL. She was very down to earth, wore her own clothing and had a smile for everyone. I didn’t get the sense that it was all a front, like some celebrities put up (again I can say this with authority, my job brings me to hang out with celebs often enough that I can make these judgment calls). I feel good buying clothes that she designed, simply because she was a nice person. I like to support good people, and I vote with my dollars. You should too.

Anyway, she had real cool hair 😉

Photo evidence!

Introducing the Spa Review Series!

Woooeeee!!!

It has been a seriously busy past few weeks (months) for me! Flitting around from place to place not only have my weekends been booked solid (and still are!) but even my weeknights have been filled with an assortment of obligations.

I want to give a shout out to some of my blogger laydeez whom I have met up with (in some cases multiple times!) this month:

They gave me an awesome time and introduced me to some seriously good eats! I’ve had delish Mexican, Japanese, French pastries, pho, Neapolitan pizza and Portuguese treats with these gals. Truly a worldly experience. And a waist-altering one :S

Last week I hosted a successful plus-size clothing swap with the fatshionista! Community (which I managed to actually post about!); went to the Dove Men+Care launch (buy some for your man), a ChickAdvisor party (Hi ladies!); and this week I’ve been busy with work, my good friend’s birthday (we ate French food!) and planning for my friend Squeaky’s arrival.

Squeaky has had a rough time of things lately, so we decided she should come and visit me for a totally deluxe girl’s weekend. She’s even decided to fly in in style rather than suffer the long train ride.

Tomorrow I am taking her to the Shizen Spa (apparently one of Toronto’s only 5-star spas—we’ll see!) to start the weekend off with a bang.

Introducing the Spa Review Series

Full disclosure here: I’m doing a  spa review series for the blog now (since I am a seasoned spa-veteran!) and Shizen has graciously provided me with a gift certificate for this weekend.

I will be doing an in-depth review of their facilities, customer service, ambiance, and overall experience from a regular client’s perspective.

I love to spa. I do it regularly at different locations in the GTA, so you can rest assured that I know what I’m talking about! After my experience I’ll report back with full details, as well as whether it met my expectations.

Next in the spa series I will also be reviewing the Stillwater Spa at the Hyatt, and Enza Day Spa. (Contact me if you would like to arrange a review of your spa)

I definitely think I deserve a break like this! While I DID get a massage this week (I hurt my shoulder) I haven’t really had a moment to relax, truly relax since Christmas. Squeaky and I are really looking forward to our weekend together—we haven’t seen each other since last year when we went to Las Vegas (and had that bizarre Mr. Darcy moment some of my long-time readers will remember. Champagne + strawberries, anyone?) so this weekend will be a real treat.

The best part is that we don’t really have to stick too closely to a budget… out of all my friends she is probably the best at managing her money and told me she’s willing to spend this weekend! Yippee!! Only problem is, it’s ME that has the budget, this time! D’oh!

So I’m trying to think of things we can do in Toronto that are fun, luxurious and not TOO expensive. The spa will be a great start, and I think we’re going to go out dancing in the evening. I’m making a fancy lasagna for dinner one night and we’ve got tickets for Yuk Yuk’s this weekend as well. I was also thinking of taking her to MoRoCo for some sipping chocolate…but it’s so expensive!

Anyone have any ideas of what we could do this weekend? I’m willing to spend if it’s a fun activity, but the cheaper, the better!

Clothing Swap, FTW!

Ever been to a clothing swap?

I just went to my first one ever and had a great experience! I teamed up with some fellow GTA fatshionistas from the fatshionista (plus-size fashion) community and we organized a mid-winter swap on Sunday.

I think it went pretty well! We started with a brunch for the organizers beforehand, followed by the swap proper.

The normal fatshionista! swap location downtown Toronto was undergoing some changes, so this time it was held at a plus-size consignment shop in Vaughan. What a perfect place to hold one! They provided us with space to dump our stuff, beverages, mirrors and changerooms, plus we all received a discount on any of their inventory. In the end they also had first dibs on the leftover clothing. Anything that would sell they took, and the remainders were donated to a women’s shelter.

I didn’t have a ton of stuff to contribute, but a few of my tops and skirts were snapped up lickety split that day. It made me feel good to know that they were going to someone who would love and care for them the way I did!

Some women brought absolute MOUNDS of clothing to donate. It was truly spectacular.

Overall it was a really great experience. I met some new friends, got to parade around in all sorts of clothes and be paid compliments and of course no one can deny the thrill of the hunt! There’s nothing quite like finding an amazing dress or pair of jeans that fit you like a dream and are FREE!

I really lucked out at this particular swap, and I can’t wait for the next! I’ll be posting some photos of the things I got, but until then here is a list of what I came home with:

  • 1 pair dark wash jeans that make my ass look great
  • 4 gorgeous vintage dresses that highlighted all my assets. I finally understand why women love vintage so much! Vintage clothes really beautify the female form!
  • 1 nice Nygard summer suit set, with skirt
  • 1 denim skirt
  • 3 Torrid vintage-inspired dresses
  • A few miscellaneous tops

I’m really stoked about all the dresses I got. They’re ones that you can’t get in Canada and they look SO GOOD. I will totally be doing outfit posts :)

I was hoping to find some shoes as well, but most of the selection there was for the bigger sizes so I didn’t get anything. My mom actually came with me to this event and while she didn’t get quite as much as I did I know she got some nice things for her upcoming trip to Mexico. She came home with me for dinner after the swap and we modeled all of our new clothes for each other.

I’m really glad that I participated in this. It helped me clear out some of my older stuff (which I had been meaning to do) and I met some awesome gals while I was there. I will totally hang out with them again!

I love the idea of a swap… and I got out of this one without spending a dime! Can you believe that? I’m really pleased with myself. I’ve had the “shopping itch” for the past couple of weeks, but couldn’t justify spending any money right now (it’s been an expensive few months!) so this swap satisfied my urges while keeping me frugal!

I’ve been exposed to more fashion and I hope to keep incorporating more of it into my life, and I’ll also be doing some photo shoots in the spring with the photographer that came to our event. Yes, my friends! Ginger is going to be a model!

Vogue with me now!

LOL

it’s just to help her beef up her portfolio, but it will be a lot of fun for me! I get to dress up, get my hair and makeup done and pretend I’m someone else for the day.  Plus I’ll be helping create art :)

So, THAT is how I spent my Sunday! I still have to report on the rest of my activities, and do that dang shoe post *glares at Pear & Melanie* but keep your eyes peeled for a quick Clothing Swap FAQ!

Pretty Baubles!

Thank goodness for 3-paycheque months!

This past week I just bought 2 new necklaces, both as a result of my silversmithing involvement!

I can’t remember if I mentioned it, but the studio I do my work at had a booth at an arts & crafts show this past weekend. They were pimping out their workshops and wanted to display the work of some advanced students, and they asked me for my stuff! Yay!

So I got some free studio time out of the deal, and I got to see my work displayed all professional-like. I stopped by the show and spoke with a professional smith that was manning the booth and she said that people kept trying to pick up my stuff and buy it! That just tickles me pink; that folks think my work is good enough to buy! The artist herself said that I should capitalize on my awesome skull pendants and produce more of them to sell. They’re a really hot motif right now and people love handmade things like that (hey, if I offered them, would you ever consider buying one? I’m trying to gauge interest…)

Skull pendants

Anyway, since I had to pay to get into the show I figured I ought to look around. There was lots of cool artzy phartzy Queen West type stuff on offer with a rather high amount of knitted stuff and paperworks around. There were a few other jewelery makers there, and this particular piece caught my eye:

acorn necklace

$50 later and it was mine! The small acorn is made from a pearl, while the large acorn is a glass pearl. The top of the large acorn is actually cast from a real acorn cap in brass, and then plated with gold. The little beads are Swarovski crystals.  The gal who made it doesn’t have a shop, but you can check out her blog here.

I don’t normally like brown tones in my things, but I really liked this one! And I like how it tinkles together when I move around :)

The next piece I got was actually made by Rickson. She happened to be the gal at MY booth at the show. Turns out we have a lot in common: we both LOVE LOVE LOVE kitties, and accessories, too! I had seen her cat pendant earlier at the studio and thought it looked fantastic.

So tonight while I was there, I bought it!

It comes in silver & brass and several sizes. I bought the tiniest brass one because I am trying to bring more gold tones into my accessories. It’s SO cute! And I love cats! Her stuff is definitely worth checking out if you’re interested, all her work is done through the casting process, rather than construction. It’s the same way I made the skull pendants. This set me back about $78 after taxes. Ouch!

I love my new things but I really think I should stop going to studios, stores and shows! Thank goodness all my Christmas shopping is done already!

Got My Shot + Thoughts on the Flu Vaccine

So, I got my H1N1 shot this weekend, and it went just fine. My mom’s office had finished giving it to all their high-risk patients and there was enough serum left for one more shot, so she brought it home to give to me.

My mom was pretty adamant about me getting the shot this year. Our family firmly believes in preventative medicine. If you have an option to prevent illness whether that is by getting a vaccine, taking vitamins or eating healthy, then we do it. The chances of me getting a shot here in TO in the next little while are pretty slim. Too many people were swamping the clinics, nothing was organized and there was a problem with shipment of the vaccines. What a mess! So she really wanted to make sure that I got one.

There are two main reasons I decided to get the shot (and always get the flu shots).

My mom is a nurse. It is her job to stay informed about possible public health issues and counsel her patients. She has been to several official seminars on H1N1 recently, and she also had to go through a ginormous stack of papers that lay out all the risks and benefits of getting the vaccine for each type of person (high risk, low risk, pregnant, diabetic, etc.) She needs to know this information so that she can not only inform her patients about the vaccine, but also to answer any questions that people may have about it. After fully understanding all information on the H1N1 vaccine, mom believes that the benefits of getting the shot far outweigh the few and small risks. If she is confident that getting the vaccine is a good thing, then I believe her.

Additionally, my mom has first-hand experience with the flu. Not only treating patients that have come down with it, but she actually caught it herself a month and a half ago. The flu is a little bit different for everyone that gets it, but it is quite the doozy!

I don’t want anyone to take this flu lightly. It is not like anything you have ever seen before. Yes, thousands more people die from the regular flu every year than H1N1 globally, but I’m not talking about death here. I’m talking about the plain old shittiness of getting this bad boy! Lots of people will get it, and most of them will survive.

But seriously? This is some scary shit. Like I said, my healthy, strong mother who is usually resistant to illness after years of nursing building her immune system came down with this in a bad way.

I have seen her with the flu before, but I have never seen her affected this badly. She had a high fever, intense body aches, pain all over. The sweats, the chills, nausea, diarrhea & the inability to consume food or drink for days on end. My mother, my caretaker, was totally broken by this flu. She was so weak she could hardly move, and would just lie there and moan when she wasn’t breathing erratically. I was only home for a weekend to take care of her, but what I saw scared me. My mom is a real trooper but she just couldn’t spring back from this. It took her weeks to regain her strength and shake the rest of the symptoms.

We were extremely lucky that she did not pass on the flu to any of us, and also that she did not acquire any secondary infections or complications (Such as the pneumonia that took the life of Joanna’s husband after a bout with Swine Flu).

I definitely think it is worth getting the shot, if only to prevent yourself the sheer misery that is H1N1!

I had another thought about the H1N1 shot, and flu shots in general. I know there are a lot of people who avoid getting the flu shots because they feel sick afterwards. Sometimes just for the day, sometimes for a week.

I hope that everyone realizes that you CANNOT catch the flu from the flu shot. The icky feeling you get after the injection is actually your body going into overdrive to create the antibodies and other protections that you will need to combat the virus.

Think of it this way: your body is a toy factory. It is constantly producing toys (antibodies for sake of argument) to ship out to the stores. Suddenly Christmas is around the corner and Toys R Us sends in a huge order that they need ASAP (the shot). The factory has to go into overtime to make all these toys to meet the deadline. Employees are working longer hours, management is trying to reallocate resources & pay overtime, and it’s just a general flurry of activity in the factory until the job gets done. Finally, all the toys are ready and sent to the warehouse. Everyone is a little bit tired, but they got it all done in time.

That same flurry of activity at the factory goes on inside your body when you get the shot. It sort of happens all at once and uses up your resources. That’s why you feel tired and icky and as if you’re coming down with something. Once the production is done, however, you’ll feel back to your old self, plus you’ll have all those toys (antibodies) in storage for when they are needed!

At least, that’s the way I understand it in layman’s terms. Of course I’m not a scientist or medial professional, but it makes sense to me. Take it with a grain of salt & do your own research if you think it sounds weird.

Now, this is purely speculation on my part, but the next thought I had was “why do some people feel fine after a shot, but some people feel gross for a week?”

My thinking? If you’ve already got a good and efficient immune system, your body won’t have to work so hard to create all those new antibodies. Maybe it’s even got a few on hand already! Therefore you wouldn’t have any of the sick feeling after getting the shot.

Conversely, if you don’t have a really efficient immune system, it’s going to take more time, effort and resources for your body to produce those antibodies, which is going to make you feel ick and for longer. I figure that these people who feel sick for a week after getting the shot are probably the ones that need it the most. Could you imagine that poor immune system having to combat an aggressive virus without being prepared? You’d lose the battle & get sick.

And again with the disclaimer… these are just my educated guesses on what goes on with vaccinations and our bodies, in layman’s terms. And I don’t think I need to tell you I have no idea if any of this applies to people with other medical conditions. If you’re one of those medical-types, feel free to confirm or correct my thinking on this. But be nice about it, sheesh!

So, do my musings strike a chord with you? Do you think I’m totally off base? As long as you’re not mean about it…DISCUSS!

Das Boots!

I thought I’d post a follow-up on the boot situation I was complaining about earlier.

I don’ t know why, but I went back to that shoe store again the day after. Luckily it was open this time!

Poor little Max (the owner) of Shoe Avenue sitting alone on his chair twiddling his thumbs… it looked like it had been a slow day! He was totally stoked to see me.

I mentioned that “a friend” (The Asian Pear) told me about this store and that she had gotten some shoes there and Max lit up like a candle. He sure is enthusiastic about shoes and customer service! Holy smokes!

He sits me down in a chair, hands me some water to drink (how nice!) and starts asking me what kind of shoe or boot I’m looking for.

We go through a whole slew of different styles and he explains to me how sizing works, how to properly tuck my pants inside the boots and even puts the boots on me himself!

Talk about great customer service! I think I ended up spending about an hour there with him talking about all the boots & shoes he has, and then talking about my neighbourhood. He used to have a shop in my neighbourhood so we chatted about the changes that have taken place since.

Long story short, I think I have settled on a pair of boots, Trot by Ros Hommerson (first pic). They’re not the other Ros Hommerson’s that I was in love with (second pic), but they look decent on me, fit my muscular calves and even have room for me to tuck my pants in, which is a nice feature.

Ros Hommerson Trot


Ros Hommerson Turin

They look better on me than the photo… it’s kind of unflattering.

I still really want those Turin ones with the buttons and pointy toes *sigh* but it seems like they have been discontinued? I’m not able to find them anywhere (for the price that Max is giving me the Trot for, that is).

Speaking of which, Max cut me a great deal. He has to order them in special for me (he called the place to get them MADE for me!) but he’s still a fair guy, knocking $70 off the regular price & throwing in a free shoe product. This brings the boots down to $180 + tax. Yay!

This is great news for me because I’ve had an expensive autumn so far and I really didn’t want to pay $250 for a pair of boots that I technically don’t need. They’re just a want. A big one, but still only a want.

While I wait a couple of weeks for my boots to come in I’ll be able to move some of my money around and find a way to pay for them. I think I’ll actually get paid between now and then, too.

While I am excited to get these boots, I can’t help but wonder how their purchase and my new purse will affect me going forward. I don’t really have extra money to spend on these nice things, but for some reason I can’t stop myself. I’m not really going into debt for them, but I’m certainly taking away from my savings. And I feel a little guilty about that. I think I’ll save my thoughts on the subject for a later post…

On the bright side, I’ve learned about some more options available to the wide-calved Canadian boot consumer. A big thanks to C of The Asian Pear and Allie of Wardrobe Oxygen for emailing me their suggestions–I found some new stores to salivate over!

If you’re in the market for some wide-width shoes or wide-calf boots, here are some links for you!

Shoe Avenue: Located in Toronto, you can actually try on the boots they sell! Yay for physical locations!
Wide Widths: An online shoe store that has a veritable smorgasboard of wide-calf boots that ship to Canada
Zappos Canada: Also online, also ship to Canada
Miller Shoes: A Canadian store in Hamilton with both an online shop and a physical shop!