Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I guess I’ve been a good lil happygrrl after all!

In my last entry I wrote that I was hoping that Jolly St. Nick would bring me The Shea Cashmere Shower Cream from Bath and Body Works for Christmas. Well, he didn’t bring it just yet, but he did bring me a surprise Christmas gift in the form of a limited edition jar of L’Occitane’s Acacia Flower Ultra Rich Body Cream. Ooooh la la! C’est trés chic! I guess Santa must’ve known that my skin was in need of some T.L.C!

The Acacia Flower body cream is jam backed with moisture rich ingredients which makes my skin feel smooth, subtle and very much quenched. My skin actually feels hydrated up to 12 hours!

It may not be Christmas yet….(just a little over 24 hours to go!), but I really want to thank Santa for my early present. Thank you, Santa!


Friday, December 19, 2008

'Tis the Season - To Save!

"Budget, budget, budget!"

"How can you stretch your dollar?"

"Money-saving tips for the holidays."

These are all headlines we see this holiday season. So, how do we spend wisely on this overly-commercialized holiday?

Here's an idea, why not buy your gifts after Christmas? It's really a genius idea. Instead of giving your Christmas gifts on the 25th this year, try passing the holiday and jumping to New Year's! Be different and send a New Year's gift or card instead. You'll be able to take advantage of huge after-Christmas sales and give even more to your loved ones. And those who truly know and love you won't mind in the least. But if they do ask, tell them you've been too busy helping charities this season – and do it! If you can wait and save on your holiday gifts, you had better donate to a local charity in some way. After all, gift-giving is really supposed to be a loving gesture – not because you have to for a holiday!

Why spoil your children with new toys and gadgets when you could give them something more personal, like giving your daughter your mother's recipe book? Or, a father giving his BB gun to his son (don't say you'll shoot your eye out). Children should learn to appreciate this holiday from the get-go. Each holiday season, have your children clean out the toy box, donate it, sell it on eBay (heck, your kids will learn beneficial online skills too!),or take them to a homeless or battered women's shelter. Instill the sense of giving to your kids, as they see you model this in your own life.

To get you started, there are literally hundreds of sites for the frugal gift-giver, but here are a couple of my top favorites.

Here's a great site with 63 gifts for under $10!

A personalized card along with your gift can make all the difference! Check out these cute card sayings.

Personalized gifts are more meaningful than expensive gifts anyways! According to the Consumer Reports' final holiday-season poll of 2008, nearly 70 percent of Americans are changing their family's traditions in response to tighter budgets. Among those changes: about 37 percent have said they've set a strict budget for gifts, 14 percent are making gifts and 6 percent won't exchange gifts at all. So, you're not alone this budget-crisis holiday season. Cut back, spend wisely, and think about doing a New Years gift giving instead! Happy 'stress-free' holidays!

- Erica

Monday, December 1, 2008

Beauty 411

On my Christmas list…

I know I’m not 10 years old anymore, but I am soooo tempted to sit down and draft a letter to Santa. I haven’t been too naughty this year, so I think that Santa can hook me up with my Christmas wish.

All I want for Christmas is….the Shea Cashmere Shower Cream from Bath and Body Works. See, I think Santa can handle that! I don’t want a car or fancy jewels—all I want is the delectable, fragrant, “best shower cream on earth” for Christmas.

I first heard of the bath product when I attended the grand opening of Bath & Body Works in Yorkdale a few months ago. Being one of the lucky attendees, I received an in-store gift card that I could use towards my purchase.

I looked frantically around the store for the warming body scrub that I purchased 2 whole years ago (I am very loyal Bath & Body Works customer. This warming scrub is on my all-time fave products list). After not finding the scrub and harassing all the customer service reps about the product, I was finally told that the item had been discontinued. Damn!!!! A little crushed by the upsetting news, I scoured the store to find something that came even remotely close to my prized body scrub.

I ventured to the back wall and when I smelled a shower cream from the True Blue Spa line, I actually had an “a-ha” moment. That was the bath product that was coming home with me.

I liked the Shea Cashmere Shower Cream the first few times I used it—I liked the vanilla scent, the way t felt on my skin (psst…this lil product is infused with cashmere extract and rich shea butter!) - it was a good replacement for the warming scrub (*note this product isn’t a scrub and it doesn’t warm up!). But after a few uses I REALLY loved it. What I love most about this bath product is the delicate sweet scent. It is soo scrumptious and yummy. It smells like it belongs in a French patisserie instead of a bath and body store!

So I am appealing to you Santa, if you bring me the shower cream, I promise to be the nicest happygrrl in the land!

Thanks, Santa!


Monday, November 17, 2008

Song of the Moment

Say what you will about Mr. Kanye West, but the man is pure genius. Forget his whiny childish behavior, or his braggart ways and just listen to his music.

I adore his current release, “Love Lockdown” from the 808 & Heartbreak CD (his latest CD to be released November 24, 2008). I love how his voice quivers as he sings. It’s so haunting; I can actually feel the emotion that inspired the lyrics.

The beat of the drums also adds to the intensity of the song; giving it an almost primal tone. I can’t say enough about this song. It totally strikes a chord with me. I adore how real it sounds and feels.

I’ve pretty much enjoyed every song that Kanye has released, but this song will go down as one of my fave Kanye tracks of all time.

Check out the song!


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

These Are a Few of My Favourite Musicals...

I think I was about seventeen or eighteen when I first sat through an entire viewing of The Sound of Music. I had heard the excessively sanguine songs before, but to view the three-hour film was another story. (Like most of my adolescence, I was always about ten years behind everyone else.) Even though I have a cold, cold heart, a part of me melted that day and I couldn’t help but fall in love, just a little, with the incredibly blonde, Village of the Damned-evocative Von Trapp family.

Although I knew the film well, what I didn’t know was that the wildly successful movie about a perfect-pitch singing family was originally a wildly successful Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that finally has its run in Toronto. With the mostly Canadian cast, The Sound of Music had its debut at the Princess of Wales Theatre on October 3. What made this production additionally interesting was that Elicia Mackenzie, winner of the reality show “How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?,” was also making her big stage debut.

I was apprehensive about sitting through a musical that featured a reality show winner in such a prominent role, but Mackenzie was seemingly born to play Maria. From the beginning, she brought an energy and doe-eyedness to the stage that did little to hide her greenness. At twenty-three, Mackenzie is just embarking on her career, although she already sings like a professional.

On stage, Mackenzie is vibrant and charming, playing Maria with an earnest awkwardness made so famous all those years ago by Julie Andrews. She glides effortlessly through each scene, by far the best vocalist on stage (next to seasoned veteran Noëlla Huet, who plays Mother Abbess).

Likewise, the six hundred and forty-seven Von Trapp children, here played by young children, are adorable to an almost overwhelmingly extent, and tackle their roles like nobody’s business. I have to give kudos to these child actors; from the ages of five to ten, all I was doing was picking my nose and playing MASH, and they’re up on stage singing to hundreds of people every night. Of note is Megan Nuttall, who plays the eldest child Eliza Liesl (thanks Elisabeth!). Though Nuttall looks both older and bigger than her governess, Mackenzie, she still brings a certain vulnerability to her role, a rarity to find in a stock secondary character.

That said, the chemistry between the leads is less than stellar. Burke Moses, who plays Captain Georg Von Trapp, comes across as a burly man with little to no emotion. When he’s sad, he looks angry. When he’s happy, he looks angry. When he’s angry, he looks angry. And so on. He’s almost as bad as Keanu Reeves, were it not for the singing. Paired with Mackenzie, who, in contrast, is a ball of energy and smiles, the mutual attraction doesn’t come across convincingly…or at all.

The stage adaptation takes liberties with setting and musical numbers to accommodate stage direction, setting, and time, but many will be glad to hear that favourites like “A Few of My Favorite Things,” "The Sound of Music," "Do-Re-Mi," "Sixteen Going On Seventeen," and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" are still intact and unchanged after all these years (my personal favourite, “The Lonely Goadherd,” was but a nary footnote in the whole production, essentially replacing “A Few of My Favorite Things” in the thunderstorm/bedroom scene). But fret not, because as an added bonus, there are a couple of numbers that don’t appear in the film.

The Sound of Music is a great musical in itself, but the pièce de résistance is the set design. Carefully crafted and flowing seamlessly, it almost overshadows the play itself. The mountain set, rigged to move up and down to create a sense of depth, is breathtaking. In fact, each set change flows so well that it almost goes unnoticed. The set design deserves as much regard as the performers.

I’m not a musical connoisseur by any means, but I do believe that a classic deserves some justice. And with this rendition of The Sound of Music, justice has been served.

The Sound of Music will be playing at the The Princess of Wales Theatre through to January 11, 2009.


Sunday, October 5, 2008

Keep the Faith by Faith Evans with Aliya S. King

I received Faith Evans’ new book Keep the Faith a while ago, and my first thought was “I hope that she’s not exploiting the death of her late husband, Biggie Smalls with this book.” There have been several articles and movies written about his untimely death, and I was hoping that this wasn’t one more thing to add to the conspiracy surrounding his unsolved murder. After reading a couple of the chapters, I was pleasantly surprised so see that her book wasn’t solely about his murder; she chronicles her life as an up and coming R&B singer, as well, she talks about her family, her poor relationship choices, and her struggle to balance pursing her career as a single mother and a widow.

I will admit, the beginning of this book was a little boring. It recalls Faith’s childhood and her traumatic move from Florida to New Jersey. She was uprooted from her mom (she unfortunately never had the chance to meet her father but only knew that he was an Italian-American man) and was made to live with her grandparents. Some of this information didn’t seem interesting, but in the back of my mind, I kinda knew that there would be more salacious stories in the upcoming pages.

According to the book, the young Faith Evans was pretty much a typical teenager. She was boy crazy, rebellious and hung around the wrong crowd. Basically, she searched for anything that remotely looked dangerous, which usually meant hooking up with the wrong guys. I couldn’t help put want to shake her and talk some sense into her every time she spoke about a guy that did her wrong. (Believe me, there were tons of instances!)

Even though her personal life was in shambles, she still had a deep appreciation for music. She adored gospel music and eventually became a part of a group. It was also at this time that she broke from the group and chose to follow her passion and pursue music fulltime.

The book quickly and concisely recounts her entrance into the music biz and details how singing for Puffy changed her life. After meeting him, her dream of becoming a recording star became to take form.

Mid way through the book, things started to pick up. This is when Faith started speaking about her roller coater like relationship with Notorious B.I.G—a rapper who at the time, was minutes away from fame. Being a friend of Puffy, Biggie would always be in the studio so he and Faith would bump into each other from time to time.

I particularly loved how he courted her in the beginning. He saw her in the studio, was interested, went over and just kicked it to her. Biggie would never ask her out on a traditional date, he would simply say, “Where we eating at tonight?” That was his way of saying that he wanted to spend some time with her. I thought that was sweet in a high school way.

The majority of the book talks about their fast courtship and their even quicker trip down the aisle. They got married after knowing each other for only 2 months! Faith openly discusses how happy she was in the early stages of her marriage, and how depressed and angry she felt when she knew that it was falling apart due to Biggie’s penchant for creeping. (his most notorious mistress was rapper Kimberly Jones a.k.a Lil Kim).

A couple of my favourite things about this book is that Faith divulges a lot of info. She candidly sets the record straight about the “supposed” affair with Tupac and how the deaths of Tupac and her husband affected her personally and professionally. Being the nosy sista that I am, I liked how she openly exposes her petty beefs with the then unknown performers (she actually had beef with Mary J. Blige and Missy).

Overall, Keep the Faith was a good read. Faith was able to tell her side of the story as the way she saw it. She didn’t paint herself as an angel, but spoke about the traumatic things going on in her life thus far.

I would recommend this book to anyone who loved the hip hop and R&B of the mid-90s and especially to anyone who actually remembers the East Coast/West Coast beef.

Check out the book!