Travel: Overnight Stay with Hotel Tonight

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Last month, a small group of Toronto media members gathered at Toronto’s DaiLo restaurant to nibble on Big Mac baos and learn all about a cool app called Hotel Tonight from the company’s COO Jared Simon. As someone who travels quite a bit, this was an awesome new discovery – an app that lets one find a last-minute discounted hotel room for a night.

This easy to use app allows users to search for hotels in over 500 cities in North America and Europe, as well as in Mexico. All hotels are vetted to ensure the highest level of  satisfaction, and users can post photos and reviews of the hotel after their stay. To test it out, we were all given promo codes to book our own rooms using Hotel Tonight. Le bf and I chose Thompson Hotel, and after a couple of swipes, a few taps, and tracing the Hotel Tonight logo to confirm, we were all booked! You know we love our staycations, and this one was great! We had dinner at Buca, enjoyed a romantic stroll along King St West, sipped drinks on Thompson’s roof, and the next morning had a leisurely swim in their rooftop pool, before grabbing delicious pastries from Colette. So relaxing!

So next time I’m downtown and too tired to schlep myself home during Toronto Fashion Week, or after a super long dinner with friends, I will know to check Hotel Tonight’s rates – it may be worth it to just stay downtown once in a while. And if you’re curious about the app – here’s a little incentive to check it out – if you use promo code NBELKOVA, you’ll get $25 credit on sign-up, making your stay even more affordable!

So tell me, have you ever used Hotel Tonight to book a hotel room? Share you stories in the comments!

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*Hotel stay was complimentary. All reviews and opinions are mine.

What They Wore: Toronto Life’s Most Stylish Party

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The last week and a half has been a whirlwind of parties, celeb sightings, TIFF lounges, and more parties. It all got kicked off with a bang and an oyster bar at the Toronto Life’s Most Stylish soiree at the Four Seasons Hotel in Yorkville, celebrating this city’s most stylish denizens, featured in the latest issue of the Toronto Life Stylebook. Star-studded guest list included my fave gossip maven Lainey Lui (one of the 25 most stylish), brothers Dean and Dan Caten of DSQUARED2, Elisha Cuthbert with hockey hubby Dion Phaneuf, one half of the Property Brothers, model Stacey McKenzie, Suzanne and Chloe Rogers, Kimberly Newport Mimran, Joe Mimran, among many others.

After a bit of exploring, my buddies Sharon and Tara Ng and I parked ourselves next to the seafood bar, loading up on crab, shrimp, and oysters, before walking over to explore the charcuterie station. Needless to say, the food was terrific. The beautifully-decorated ballroom was buzzing with excitement and Toronto’s most stylish partying under one roof made for some great people-watching.

This city is such a vibrant place to live, and every time I go away for a bit, I return a little more grateful for all it has to offer, so it is truly amazing to see a publication celebrating its own stylish peeps, instead of focusing on the usual suspects from other countries and cities. I already can’t wait to see who’ll be featured next year! Who would you nominate? Share in the comments.

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More photos after the jump!

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Giveaway: 25 Years of Front Of The Line With Amex Canada

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To celebrate the 25th anniversary of Amex Canada’s Front Of The Line program, the lovely Canadian team hosted a little soiree under the sunny Toronto sky, with a little Barque brisket, and a lot of John Legend swooning. Molson Amphitheatre served as the perfect backdrop for a warm summer evening of great music and mingling with some of my fave Toronto people. This was my first time seeing John Legend perform live – and it was eye-opening. I knew that the man could sing…but…the man can really sing! Between sharing the cute tidbits from his life (did you know that he used to work as a management consultant?!), Legend played the piano, while singing some of the most romantic ballads ever. No wonder why Molson Amphitheatre was packed with couples, enjoying a perfect date night under the stars.

Our little soiree was, of course, to toast to 25 years of Front Of The Line program making Amex Canada’s Cardmembers’ dreams come true. If you love to be entertained…and I don’t mean just concerts – musicals, theatre productions, dining experiences, movie premieres are all part of the program too – then you should absolutely be taking advantage of everything Front Of The Line has to offer.

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Started in Toronto in 1989 with a pre-sale for Phantom of the Opera, Front Of The Line is now recognized worldwide for its strong partnerships with organizations like LiveNation, Mirvish, and Massey Hall, and for providing unparalleled access to unique events and experiences. Some of the cool benefits of Front Of The Line include:

-  pre-sales and advanced ticket access before they go on sale to the general public
-  reserved allotment to some of the hottest sold out shows
-  special experiences at great Toronto venues (Cardmember Lounges at Molson Amphitheatre, Roy Thompson Hall, and Princess of Wales; Cardmember Express Bar at Massey Hall; exclusive line for Cardmembers at Molson Amphitheatre)

Amex has recently launched a global program called Invites, an evolution of the successful Front Of The Line program, which offers Cardmembers even more access and incentives, available worldwide. Le bf and I have experienced some Front Of The Line perks in the past, but even we didn’t know how many other cool things we could’ve taken advantage of just by being Cardmembers. Now we know!

But that’s not all! To celebrate this milestone, Amex Canada wants to share the love via daily Twitter giveaways that will run until September 1st. Up for grabs are hottest tickets to concerts, theatre, and dining experiences happening across Canada. 25 pairs of tickets will be given away daily. That’s a lot of free tickets! And all you need to do to enter is to follow @AmexCanada on Twitter and reply to their daily contest question using the hashtag #FOTL25 and the @AmexCanada Twitter handle. So, come and celebrate a quarter of a century of Front Of The Line experiences by scoring some free tickets, and sharing your fave Front Of The Line perks that you or your friends enjoyed in the past. With millions of tickets sold through the program over the years, it may just be Canada’s best worst kept secret.

This post was sponsored by Amex Canada. The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are purely my own.

Photos after the jump!

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Giveaway: Aveda Smooth Infusion Naturally Straight

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As someone with naturally wavy/frizzy hair, I am always on the hunt for hair products that will make my unruly hair look and feel more manageable. So when I was offered the opportunity to try the new Aveda Smooth Infusion Naturally Straight styling creme, I didn’t have to think twice. I was in!

After my first time using the Aveda Smooth Infusion shampoo, conditioner, and styling creme, I was hooked! Even after one application, the three easy-to-use products left my hair feeling softer, shinier, and yes, smoother. And two weeks later, my natural wave was practically gone. Don’t get me wrong, I still had to use a hair straightener to achieve the truly straight and smooth look, but most of my work was already done for me by the hair products I was using. And the best part was that even on hot, humid days, my hair stayed straight and frizz-free!

Aveda Smooth Infusion Naturally Straight styling creme promises to progressively straighten curls with every use, and it definitely delivers. Organic cassava root helps form a barrier against intense humidity to help you battle frizz, while the  plant-derived fibers help create a locking layer to help you keep your hair straight longer.

After about 2 months of using Aveda Smooth Infusion line on my hair, I took part in a little photoshoot, showcasing my smooth, straight locks, among other curly-haired Torontonians. You can check out everyone’s incredible results below.

But that’s not all! If like me, you need a little help with your frizzy locks, make sure to enter our Aveda Smooth Infusion giveaway below. You could win a three-month supply of Aveda Smooth Infusion Naturally Straight styling creme – that’s enough to get you through the hottest and the most humid of summer days. Sounds good? Enter after the jump!

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Travel: Shangri-La Hotel, Toronto Staycation

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The month of May was more than a little crazy. Apart from helping organize the Blogger Bazaar event, last month I also finished a quarter-end at work, filmed not one, but two Styled By Nelia videos, hosted an ALDO A-List party, participated in an Aveda photoshoot and photo exhibit, all the while preparing for yet another month-end. Don’t get me wrong, I had a lot of fun doing these things, but doing them on top of my 9-5 job made me feel more than a little stressed. Knowing that yet another month-end was staring me square in the face, I knew that a staycation was in order. So last Sunday, le bf and I packed our bags, and took the 15-minute Car2Go ride to Toronto’s Shangri-La hotel, where we had a room booked for one night of fun and relaxation.

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ROOM

Shangri-La is one of the most prestigious hotel brands in the world. Synonymous with paradise, Shangri-La is all about providing sophisticated luxury, transporting you to a place of deepest calm and relaxation. The moment we walked into our suite, we were wowed by the size and design of our room. With a spacious living room, two stunning bathrooms, welcoming bedroom, plush robes, marble and velvet finishes, two closets, and a Nespresso machine, our suite felt more like a sleek condo in the city than a hotel room. There were labelled buttons everywhere, to make turning on the lights, as well as opening and closing the sheers and drapes a breeze, a built-in TV in the master bathroom vanity, and an in-room iPad for our room-service ordering ease. In one word – impressive!

After checking out our room, we dropped off our things, and took the elevator down to the lobby for the first stop on our staycation itinerary! Shangri-La’s afternoon high tea!

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HIGH TEA

Having heard great things about high tea at Shangri-La, our expectations were pretty high. When we arrived, our VAWK-clad hostess handed us a tea menu and asked us to choose our favourites from the 68 varieties on hand at the hotel. After taking our time to peruse the tea library (68 teas is no joke!),  we settled on Sunrise Serenade flowering tea. While we waited for our tea service, we had a chance to fully take in our surroundings. While the high tea service is held in Shangri-La’s Lobby Lounge, nothing about it felt “lobby-like”. We were seated on a comfortable sofa overlooking a large fireplace, and while the lounge was full of people, our high-tea experience felt very intimate.

When the tower arrived, I didn’t hear a single thing our hostess told us about it (I asked her to repeat it for me later), because I was ready to dig in and everything looked amazing. We started at the bottom, and tucked into lobster and chive rolls, cucumber apple and cream cheese, roasted chicken with grain mustard, and egg and watercress sandwiches with crispy Serrano ham on top. De-li-cious! Next up, we spread some creamy Devonshire cream and jam on warm, flaky chamomile scones, and they were gone in a flash. I am not usually a fan of scones, but these were divine. We moved on to the much-anticipated dessert plate, which consisted of a chocolate ganache cake with raspberry compote, passion fruit ball, berries and citrus pastry, and a pineapple verrine. Once again, everything was delectable, bursting with flavours. Even half of each rich pastry was enough to satisfy me and my sweet tooth. Once the tower was polished off, we sat back, sipping our fragrant tea, more intense with each cup, looking at the fireplace, and enjoying the soft piano music playing in the background.

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SPA

After our delightful high tea experience, we went back to our room, put on our bathing suits, and headed to the Miraj Hammam Spa by Caudalie Paris. Having visited the spa a few times before, I already knew what to expect – pure relaxation. We chose Hammam and Gommage for couples – 15 minutes in a high-intensity steam room to detox, followed by a full-body scrub. Hammam and Gommage is a great intimate treatment to share with a loved one, and I am really glad I finally brought le bf to experience it with me. The 15 minutes inside the steam room are very peaceful, and let you be alone together, breathing in and out, letting your pores open up, and rid your body of toxins. While the scrub treatment just feels incredibly nice, and can be as intense as you’d like.

Post-gommage, we marveled at our smooth, baby-soft skin, and relaxed some more in the little outdoor oasis on the patio of the spa, refreshed with some grapes, sweet Moroccan mint tea, and baklava. We probably could’ve stayed there all day, but we chose to pay a visit to the hotel pool instead. Private cabanas equipped with personal TVs, and stunning views of Toronto all around, made for a cool and refreshing post-spa visit – simply blissful.

More after the jump!

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Shopping: ALDO A-List Party at Yorkdale Shopping Centre!

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When ALDO asked me to host yet another A-List party at their stunning Yorkdale store, I didn’t have to give it much thought. These parties are always such a blast. I mean, who would ever say no to a shopping soiree full of drool-worthy shoes and accessories, yummy sweet bites, and hanging out with the coolest people ever?!

This time, I gave out 5 gift cards to Toronto’s most stylish shoppers, helping them pick up summer shoes of their dreams. And let me tell you, ALDO’s SS14 collection is what dreams are made of – from seriously sexy sky-high heels to ugly-cute slip-ons, and anything else in between, there’s a pair out there for any taste! And don’t even get me started on the latest ALDO Rise Ostwald Helgason collection – it’s beyond amazing and is full of must-haves.

I wore my fave (and super comfy) orange Umaniel kitten heel slingbacks and was able to dance around the store for hours, while mingling with shoppers, being silly with Max Kopanygin, and of course trying on more shoes. It was a blast!

Thanks to all those that stopped by our event bright early on a Sunday morning, and for those that weren’t able to attend this time, you can still check out the new arrivals at the Yorkdale store – staff members at that location are not only super helpful, but they are also the most stylish group of co-workers I’ve ever seen. Happy Shopping!

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More after the jump!

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You Are Invited: Blogger Bazaar Toronto 2014

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If you missed out on last year’s BLOGGER BAZAAR, I have some great news for you, the gang is back together, and we’re doing it again! On June 1st, you are invited to shop Toronto’s hottest bloggers’ closets at the Soho House. Once again, we’ll have gift bags with purchase, a mix of designer, vintage and fast-fashion finds, and 10% of all sales will be donated to the Corsage Project. You can check out the flyer above to get an idea of what kind of goodies you’ll be able to score at the sale – designer shoes, jewelry, clothes – all at deep, deep, DEEP discounts. You definitely don’t want to miss this one.

I’ll try and share more about the items that I will be selling at the bazaar, but in the meantime, check out the details below and make sure to save the date!

WHERE: Soho House, 192 Adelaide St W, Toronto
WHEN: June 1st, 2014 12-4pm
BLOGGERS: Sharon and Tara (backseatstylers.com), Nelia (styleblog.ca), Kimberly (thesoulsofmyshoes.com), Anita (iwantigot.geekigirl.com), Hawley (sidewalkhustle.com), Anya (imtheitgirl.com), Liane (etsy.com/ca/shop/thelostsea), Jessica (everafterlacquer.com), Monica (aimeluxury.com)
GIFT BAGS WITH PURCHASE (minimum purchase of $30, while supplies last)
CASH ONLY
10% of all proceeds will be donated to The Corsage Project

See you all there!!!

Toronto Fashion Week: Fall 2014 Roundup

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I suppose it’s not a bad thing that spring is taking its sweet time getting here, because last month’s Toronto Fashion Week Fall 2014 shows feel as relevant as ever. Even if I am getting quite fed up with my winter clothes, I wouldn’t mind wrapping myself in some covet-worthy leather jackets, beautiful printed dresses, and fuzzy mohair sweaters that I saw on the runways in March. This season, thanks to Best Buy Canada and VIVA Beauty from Best BuyI was fully prepared for the craziness of fashion week – my survival kit included a fancy Canon DSLR camera, complete with a brand new SD card, and some beauty goodies to get me through the week looking fresh – it was a lifesaver! This season, I also didn’t attempt being in several places at the same time, but selected a few days and a few designers to support, and I have to say that it really worked out well for me. I didn’t feel as burnt out as usual, and I still got to see and shoot some amazing Canadian designers at work.

One of the highlights of my week was Beaufille. The latest collection from Chloe and Parris Gordon was full of standout pieces worthy of a good catfight. Loose silhouettes, paired with cleverly placed slits and hook-and-eye embellishments, embossed leather and of course the piece that stole my heart – the red moto jacket of my dreams – it was all very wearable, modern, and oozed the cool factor. Definitely my favourite collection from the Canadian sisters. The only thing I hate about this is the fact that I’ll have to wait forever (6-8 months) to get my hands on my fave pieces.

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As usual, the Joe Fresh show was complete and utter mayhem. Even without a top model headliner, the show was packed, with people spilling out of their seats, and for good reason too. Once again, Joe Mimran showed a collection of affordable pieces that still managed to get hearts racing, and that will pretty soon be available not only in Canada and the US, but in 23 other countries worldwide! Not too shabby for a brand that began at a grocery store, non?

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But despite the big expansion news, Joe Fresh Fall 2014 collection was as Canadian as they come, what with a ton of cute jackets (wool, moto, puffers, you name it!), intarsia sweaters, and faux fur dominating most of the looks. But perhaps because winter and I, we are done professionally, my personal faves were the lovely dresses printed with ethereal images of landscapes and nature. Once these hit the stores, be prepared to fight me for them. Elbows up, ladies!

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Pink Tartan Fall 2014 was another collection quite heavily influenced by Canadian winters. While Kim Newport-Mimran stuck to her signature ladylike aesthetic, she mixed in a few unexpected patterns and fabrics, making this one of my favourite Pink Tartan collections ever (with the exception of this one).

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The collection was very “glam cocktail hour at the chalet”, what with cozy intarsia sweaters, black and red buffalo check, fur stoles, and ginormous fur mittens, mixed with full skirts, metallic dresses, and leather pants. Practical and chic? I would like one of each, please and thank you.

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Always a personal favourite, Mackage Fall 2014 show definitely did not disappoint. With scattered faux maple leafs lining the runway, the models rocked some of the best outerwear pieces I’ve seen all week. Clearly, co-creative directors of the brand Elisa Dahan and Eran Elfassy know what Canadians both want and need from their winter wares – style and function, and boy did they deliver!

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Fur trims, quilted leather everything, pops of fuchsia, Black Watch tartan pieces, oh my! It was unfair how good everything looked…and also quite dangerous for my wallet. And don’t even get me started on their bags! Simply put…this collection was the bomb-dot-com.

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More after the jump!

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What I Wore: WMCFW

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Toronto Fashion Week has come and gone, and while I am incredibly thankful to have been able to attend some amazing shows, witness backstage magic first-hand, and meet so many interesting (and oftentimes talented) people…I have to say that by Day 5, I was wiped out. Even three days of fashion shows combined with my 9-5 was enough to require a weekend of R&R, which is exactly what the doctor prescribed. I’m the doctor, in case you are wondering.

And while I’m still working on my #WMCFW coverage, I thought I’d share my fashion week outfits. From my red ALDO shoes, to my Joe Fresh coordinates, to my fave falconwright clutch, I tried to infuse Canadian and Canadian-made pieces into my outfits for each day of fashion week, as captured by the amazing street style photographers Mauricio Calero and Max Kopanygin. Thanks, boys!

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One more after the jump!

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You Are Invited: Blogger Beauty Brunch at Do My Hair!

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Exciting news, lovelies! Right in time for Toronto Fashion Week, my blogger friends and I will be throwing a fun Blogger Beauty Brunch at Do My Hair salon on Mt. Pleasant! Join us for an afternoon of pampering, light refreshments, and fun. The salon will be offering complimentary haircuts, blowouts, and make-up applications, to get you ready for fashion week, or to just treat yourself, because spring is coming, and we all could use a little TLC!

But that’s not all! If you attend our event, make sure to post some photos, using hashtag #beautybrunchTO for a chance to win a makeover valued at up to $500! Pretty awesome, right?! Oh, and did I mention gift bags? We’ll have those too! So if you are interested in getting pampered and joining us at the Blogger Beauty Brunch this Sunday, check out the details below and don’t forget to reserve your spot! See you there!

WHEN: Sunday, March 16, 2014 10:30am-2:30am
WHERE: Do My Hair, 583 Mount Pleasant Rd
WHAT: Choice of a complimentary haircut, blowout, or make-up application (spots are limited!)
WHO: Style Blog, The Backseat Stylers, The Souls of My Shoes
Call 416-544-0505 to book your appointment!