COMING RIGHT UP: Getting My Learn on at #TheArtOf Marketing!

The promotional image for The Art of Marketing, June 6, 2013 in Toronto.

What I’ve learned from the years of social media so far is that a ton of people are faking it ’til they make it, and unfortunately we eat it right up!

These days, almost everyone and their grandmother is an “expert”. The Internet’s been flooded with experts, gurus, ninjas, advocates, influencers, early adopters, grand poobahs, and whatever other titles people want to give themselves.

So after far too much time (and money) invested in everything from eBooks and videos to online courses and weekly webinars, I’ve become pretty adept at knowing the real deal when I see it.

And The Art of… learning series never disappoints.

With two of these sessions under my belt already (The Art of Marketing in 2011 and The Art of Leadership in 2012), I’ve seen some great speakers sharing their experience and insights on-stage, such as Gary Vaynerchuk, Marcus Buckingham and Guy Kawasaki. I’ve learned about what it takes to capture an audience’s attention; how to really benefit from a good analytics strategy; how to best engage with introverts (as I’m on the other end of the spectrum altogether) — I haven’t yet been able to apply everything that I’ve learned simply because there’s been so much information.

The big draw this year is Biz Stone. Yes, that Biz Stone. Yes, the co-founder of Twitter Biz Stone, headlining with a talk called Things a Little Bird Told Me: Simple Lessons About Business, Life, Service & Creativity!

The other speakers are nothing to sneeze at, either:

  • Seth Godin – New York Times Bestselling Author, Purple Cow, Tribes, Poke the Box & Linchpin (this man is renowned in the blogging community!)
  • Charles Duhigg – New York Times Investigative Reporter & Bestselling Author, The Power of Habit
  • Jonah Berger – Professor of Viral Marketing at University of Pennsylvania and Author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On
  • David Usher – Juno Award Winning Musician & Creativity Expert (remember Moist???)

So if you want to join me and get your learn on, you can take advantage of their TWITTERFAN promo code at http://email.theartof.com/KT13/TWITTERFAN/ and save $50 off of your ticket, or $100 off if you can find some friends to go with and buy 3 or more tickets at once!

Do it. It just might change your life!

–case p.

[Disclaimer: I got a free ticket to The Art of Marketing 2013 in Toronto in exchange for some promotion, which is awesome because I would’ve fought to include it in my learning budget anyway!]

COMING RIGHT UP: After Work Drinks Toronto 8 — The Dress for Success Edition

If you want to make the most out of social media, one of the most important things you need to do is meet people. Gone are the days where you can simply exist behind a screen name and expect to change your life — people want a person they can relate to; someone they can understand… and no amount of detail on an online profile ever does this justice.
I met my first online friend back in 2005, and I haven’t stopped since — it’s a massive world out there; how’re you going to know how you fit into it if you don’t start exploring?

IMG_4287

After Work Drinks Toronto (or AWDTO) has always been a good place to start doing this. Run by Amanda Blake with help from her boyfriend Graham Rowlands and a cast of friends, AWDTO has always been about enjoying a casual time out with friends (both old and new) over drinks, and preferably on a patio (but definitely not with the weather Toronto’s been having as of late!) I’ve been to a couple so far, and even though I constantly think that I’ve met everyone I could meet on social media in Toronto, I’m always pleasant surprised to come across even more at AWDTO sessions, such as Adeline, who’s a nutritional consultant, brought cupcakes to my birthday party last year and sees me as her “older brother”; and Taylor, who I’d wanted to meet for ages and never got the opportunity to do so!

#AWDTO Movember (166 of 168)

Since the AWDTO Movember edition, AWDTO has given back as a not-for-profit event, and this time is no exception! $5 of every ticket goes back to the Dress for Success charity, which focuses on promoting “the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and the career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life” (and coincidentally based out of my church in The Annex!) And if you’re wondering — the rest of the cash goes back to the event and to make sure that future AWDTOs are just as amazing!
This edition of After Work Drinks Toronto will feature:
  • the best of Scotland with an Innis & Gunn sampling;
  • a special pint pricing on Innis & Gunn for AfterWorkDrinksTO guests;
  • a Caribbean getaway with a Special AfterWorkDrinksTO  Mount Gay Rum cocktail prepared by Robin James Wynne @djrobinjames, a Canadian award-winning mixologist and Mount Gay rep;
  • getting fancy with Select Wines for a wine tasting (region TBA);
  • a great selection of canapes to pair with the drinks;
  • live band playing awesome funk and Motown music (dancing encouraged!); and
  • great prize giveaways & swag!

Don’t think for a second that you need to be in downtown Toronto to get in on the AWDTO action — it’s open to anyone, anywhere, who wants a bit of fun, and to sweeten the deal, they’re giving away:

  • a $25 Hailo credit which you could definitely use to get through that rush hour traffic to the event; and
  • 2 tickets to After Work Drinks Toronto (worth $40)!

Use the Rafflecopter below to enter (and feel free to get a few extra entries — you never know when a free taxi ride will come in handy!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, if you grab your tickets by Sunday, April 14th, you’ll be entered in a draw to win two (2) free Toronto FC tickets valued at $54! So get on it!

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So come out. Meet new people. Do something different. After Work Drinks Toronto 8 is $20 in advance (and are no longer being sold at the door — this party’s gotten that live!!!) and at Fynns of Temple Bar on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. Find further details at http://afterworkdrinksto.eventbrite.com/ and we’ll definitely see you there!

–case p.

I AM NOT A FOODIE: G… for Gelato and Espresso Bar

G... for Gelato and Espresso Bar — Shant Behesnilan and Faema

G… for Gelato and Espresso Bar

Seating: Around 30

Address: 75 Jarvis St, Toronto, ON

Location: Jarvis/Adelaide

Neighbourhood: St. Lawrence

Food type: Italian fare and gelato


Shant Behesnilan is a man who’s passionate about customer service. He’s done what many only dream of — making the jump from working a safe job to working the right job.

With a family history in the restaurant trade, Shant grew up working in all areas behind the scenes at Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale, California (aka one of the favourite Armenian restaurants of the Kardashians), owned by his uncle, Ara Kalfaian.

After travelling the path of many a Canadian — go to school, get a job, pay your dues — Shant soon discovered that life behind a desk wasn’t for him and went on a quest for something different.

Originally looking to open a frozen yogurt shop, Shant was thrice denied by fate, once having lost out on a lease to Menchie’s by seconds; once seeing a Yogurty’s opening up across the street from a spot he was viewing; and when he looked one last time, up the street was G… for Gelato and Espresso Bar, a family-owned business founded in November 2011 that had astounding family recipes covered, but to take customer service to the next level, needed some outside help.

Under Shant’s new management and ownership as of fall 2012, G for Gelato has a ton going for it — a scenic view of St. James Park across the street, authentic Italian food and customer service that brings it all together.

The good thing about doing reviews for Buytopia.ca is that it gets me to find cool places in Toronto that I wouldn’t make time to visit otherwise, and I’m glad I didn’t miss out on this one!

With recipes coming from a small Italian town and brought to Toronto for our delight, G for Gelato has a lot going for it:

  • it’s ranked #1 of 4,065 restaurants in Toronto on TripAdvisor
  • all the food’s made in-house, especially the gelato made daily at 7:30 AM with hand-squeezed flavours, pasteurized for healthiness and rotated more often than your average gelato shop
  • pizzas cooked in a Moretti Formi Amalfi Vintage oven imported from Italy
  • espressos made with a Faema Emblema machine based on designs from Giorgetto Giugiaro (who’s designed some obscure cars called Lamborghinis and Ferraris to name a few)

Sarah and I had a great time getting to know Shant and his team, and I hope to visit again sometime. If you don’t happen to make it to the St. Lawrence Market area, they’re also delivering through orderit.ca, so you can get your gelato… and eat it too! (Especially if you take advantage of the Buytopia deal on until end-of-day Sunday, March 24, 2013!)

G for Gelato and Espresso Bar on Urbanspoon

–case p.

[Disclaimer: As a Buytopia Inner Circle blogger, I get to test deal out to give you an honest review so you know what you’re getting into. Shant was kind enough to comp the delicious meal! Thanks, Shant!]

Some Zest from the West — A Taste of Burlington

A frontal view of The Martini House in Burlington
Deep in the quiet town of Burlington…

An hour away from big, bad Toronto is a little place called Burlington. The last time I remember coming out this way was in my early 20s to check the club scene (and girls) outside of Toronto at Big Buck’s Mountain Lodge. But nearly a decade and several nights out later, Christine teamed up with Tourism Burlington to get myself, Justin and Chris back out there for the Taste of Burlington festival!

You Fancy, Huh?

After making surprising time on the QEW/403 (yet again), with 45 minutes to kill, Christine and I figured that coming to The Martini House without trying the martinis was criminal in some social circle, so there we were getting all fancy and stuff.

Let the Games Begin

The boys joined us by our second round at the bar (which is good, because we’d reached the point where Christine was calling her drink fancier than mine and calling the bartendermixologist…), and we cozily made our way into a space by a wonderful couple (who I hope didn’t mind how noisy a night they had ahead of them!)

Lobster Cappuccino

A picture of the lobster cappuccino at The Martini House in Burlington, ON
In-house lobster bisque, old-bay seasoned foam, croissant

Remembering the awesome food I’d had when I’d visited Boston, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a good lobster bisque. In a mug. With a croissant. (I love croissants!) It was a big serving, delicious, and any soup I can drink with a handle is a drink that’s great in my books!

Fusilli Carbonara

The Fusilli Carbonara at The Martini House in Burlington, ON.
organic Ontario chicken, scallion, double-smoked Ontario bacon, parmesan
Could’ve used some pepper flakes, but still pretty good.

Had I known that I could replace cream corn with mashed potatoes (or “smashed potatoes” as the menu says), I would’ve definitely ordered the Smokey Beef Short Rib, but c’est la vie.

The carbonara was pretty good, but I would’ve liked it with some spice. (What can I say — my parents are Jamaican!) It was a good portion; hard to finish — I think martinis fill you up? Who knew.

Vanilla Creme Brûlée

The Martini House's Vanilla Creme Brulee in Burlington, ON
Yes it was delicious. No I didn’t have any room left for it in my tummy 🙁

Without the capacity for cake, I was in the mood for something light — and the vanilla crème brûlée hit the spot. No complaints on this one!

If you want to check out some of the other options that The Martini House has to offer during the Taste of Burlington festival, check out the Martini House’s Taste of Burlington menu 0r some shots of other food options below!

Three Cheers for the Taste of Burlington!

Left-to-right: Chris Vollick, Christine Pantazis, Justin Baisden and me!
They look so happy! And full.

The Taste of Burlington festival runs from February 27th through March 10th, and features 23 of Burlington’s eateries with $20 lunch and $35 dinner menus. If you’re looking for a little adventure outside of your Torontonian stomping grounds, try Burlington this week! Your taste buds just might be surprised!

The Martini House on Urbanspoon

–case p.

[disclaimer: The Martini House comped us some delicious food and drink on the premise that we were bloggers and would cover the drinks and hijinks of the night — which caught us completely off-guard as we thought we were just getting our dinners covered — but they’re just that amazing!]

Becoming a Better Blogger

Great People Talk About Ideas; Average People Talk About Things; Small People Talk About Other People
I need to remember to repeat this to myself all the time.

Every time I write; every time I come up with new ideas and spend hours putting them together into the most coherent and compelling stories that I can muster, one core thought runs through my head:

“I want to be a better blogger.”

We are our brand. We are the sum of the things we’ve done in life, what we’ve learned from them, and how other people see us because of these things. The sum total of these is the personal brand that’s associated with us individually.

But if our brands are so precious and define how people see us, isn’t it our duty to make sure we do all that we can to make them stunning?

The Importance of the Personal Brand

When I was young, my parents wanted me to be a professional — a doctor, a lawyer, or even an actuary — but there was an underlying lesson they were always teaching me:

Be the best there is at what you do.

Being the best means constant learning. It means improving your craft with every new thing you learn and never truly being satisfied with what you offer to the world. Just as the world never stops progressing, neither should you.

It’s ignorant to think that you’ll always be the best — it takes all types to make the world work, and eventually someone will come along who’s faster, stronger, smarter, or just plain better than you are.

But you never stop trying. Never.

If you’re passionate about something — if you’ve got the drive to keep wanting to put the very best that you can out in the world — whatever that is at any given time — then it’s a feeling that’ll never leave you alone. It’s an itch that you’ll never truly scratch, but it’s that very itch that keeps you going.

And it’s because of that itch that I want to take advantage of opportunities like Bloggers in Sin City and Brandgasm 101.

What IS “A Better Blogger?”

But what is “a better blogger”?

Does it mean increasing my Alexa ranking? Does it mean getting more shares and retweets on Facebook and Twitter? Or having your audience show you love through a flood of comments when you post something new?

It means different things to different people.

Me? I want my blog to mean something. I want to know when I shuffle off of the mortal coil at some point in the future that my blog somehow made the world a better place.

So that’s why I grind. That’s why I hustle away, trying to make this blog better and better when I can work on it.

And that’s why I want to join Brandgasm 101.

Brandgasm 101 logo
Brandgasm 101 — How to take your design and copywriting game to the next level

Much like making sure the clothes on my back are as fly as I can get ’em, who’s gonna remember a blog that fails to make an impact on them?

You can buy all the tools in the world to become a better designer, but they won’t do you any good if you don’t know what you’re doing. That’s why I’d love to join Brandgasm 101 — to go back to basics, unlearn bad habits and build something I’ll be proud of. Something that’ll stand the test of time.

While the pricing hasn’t been revealed for Brandgasm 101, I think that anyone who’s serious about taking their presence anywhere — both digitally and physically — should consider making the investment in learning great design!

Hopefully I’ll see you there!

–case p.

[disclaimer: this reflection’s inspired by a call for entries in a Brandgasm 101 contest which I hope to win so I can kick my design game up a few levels]

Whodunit?! — Once Upon A Murder, the Mysteriously Yours… Mystery Dinner Theatre VIP Launch

Never before have I gone to a blogger event and come home with extra toilet paper.

Once Upon a Time….

What started as a simple dinner would eventually turn into an event filled with confession, intrigue and a dash of killer instinct.

Nestled south of the Yonge-Eglinton neighbourhood, the Mysteriously Yours… Mystery Dinner Theatre is a little-known Toronto gem that’s been operating for 25 years, where murder’s laced with motives and nothing’s ever quite what it seems.

Once Upon a Murder is a murder mystery based around a fairytale wedding, designed to get the crowd involved so that they can solve the mystery — but what happens if they start to become part of it???

The Plot

Justin has a knack for bringing people together. Knowing that you can only get so much from large events and the chaos that comes with them, he opted to bring a quartet of bloggers/business people together to dine, drink and discuss the night away.

When Val proposed that we all join her for a VIP seasonal launch at the Mysteriously Yours… Mystery Dinner Theatre, I was on board for a night of hijinks while having an event to shake things up.

So Justin, Val, Jamie and I found ourselves at Table 18 catching up… and eventually trying to figure out whodunit.

The Plate

Starting us off with glasses of fraîse champagne and plates of shrimp salad on rice crackers and pulled pork bruschetta, the menu by Rossy Earle, Executive Chef was a tasty one!

Even though murder was in the air, the only thing my knife was stabbing was the delicious boneless beef rib I ordered. Say what you will, Mr. Bussey, but I enjoyed my meal here! While I won’t rave about the cheddar jalapeno soup or the key lime tart (both tasty, but nowhere near as delicious as the main), I think the food was a little better than “okay”.

But we weren’t there for the food — the mean would be nothing compared to the mystery!

You Can’t Take Casey Anywhere

I’m pretty sure that growing up isn’t an option for me. I play like a big kid, crack jokes like it’s my second language and lose my mind if things are too dull, so putting me in arm’s-reach of an interactive fairytale story without expecting me to dive right in is insane :).

As we ate and caught up, the characters would mingle amongst our tables, giving us the lay of the land as they saw it and trying to get the audience as engaged as possible. We had some excellent interactions with Lupo and Little Red Riding Hood — or “Scarlet”, rather — but the one who took the cake for Table 18 was Prince Charmin, who would eventually come to sit with us through the majority of the production! We were getting charmed by Charmin!

Over the course of the mystery, a bromance was formed between myself and Prince Charmin (Ian Ronningen), involving manly hugs, questionable nicknames (such as “Winnie the Poo”, the mascot of his multinational toilet paper corporation) and general back-and-forth ridiculousness. The show was meant to be interactive, but I’m pretty sure that they weren’t ready for me and the brand of madness I bring to the table.

It was fun.

All’s Well That Ends Well… Well, Except for the Queen, Being Dead and All… But You Know….

I won’t spoil the mystery for you, but at least it’s no mystery as to why the night was full of fun! With good food, good company and a healthy heaping of laughs, I’m glad I made it out.

And of course, what would a wedding be without party favours for the guests? Keeping with the theme of a union between Ever After’s royal successor and its largest manufacturer of toilet paper, we went home with a sample of Prince Charmin’s quality product! I just hope we weren’t expected to read the media kit and drink our coffee while sampling it!)

Thanks again to Val for inviting us to such a fun night — even if you’ve been before, it’s a different adventure every time you go; there’s no way they could’ve stayed in business for 25 years so far otherwise! If you’re looking to do something different in Toronto or take a date somewhere a little more memorable, give Mysteriously Yours… Mystery Dinner Theatre a try!

Would it kill you to try something different?

–case p.

Partying Up Rain or Shine (or Snowmageddon) — The Ford Blue Party

Even though Maverick PR’s #OpenEnvelope-inspiring tweet likely got some would-be attendees to stay in and out of the cold of Snowmageddon, if there’s one thing that I’ve learned about Ford Canada, it’s this — they definitely know how to throw an event!

How far will you go to party?

Though many weren’t willing to brave Snowmageddon to attend “another social media event”, I’ll be one to tell them that they missed out! It was a testament to tenacity on Friday, February 8th, as a number of us made it out to Ford Canada’s Blue Party! Held at the Sound Academy on the south end of Toronto, the Blue Party was all about bringing a number of Toronto bloggers together to see the unveiling of the 2014 Ford Fiesta, a fuel-efficient hatchback with a slick look to it!

A screenshot of a mysterious Facebook message I received.
I’ll admit, I didn’t know what it was for, but since I knew the guy, I figured it wouldn’t be for spam!

Not one to waste time questioning messages from people I know, I sent it along, not knowing what would come next.

What did come next was this —

I was fortunate enough to get a ride there with my friend Christine, but even if you weren’t driving in, Ford even hooked it up with a shuttle service to the venue:

What Makes a Party a Party?

With one of the most painless check-in processes I’d ever seen, we got our badges, checked out coats, posed for pictures — and got greeted by members of the Ford Canada team and glasses of the Blue Grand Margarita (the event’s dangerously addictive drink of choice) as soon as we got in the door!

No matter where you looked, there was something you could do:

Catch up With Friends

It was good hanging with Christine again, and catching up with the likes of Alexa and Zach with many other friends in the house 🙂

Gaming and Leisure

One corner held games and grooming, with a foosball table, two games offering head-to-head racing competition, and stations for manicures, makeover and massages (oh my!)

Boys and their Toys

Ford displayed choice cars all over the floor, with detailed specs for each so you could understand what you could come to expect by being a Ford owner:

Gotta Eat and Run

The food — oh my goodness, I don’t know who they got to cater this, but the food was delicious. I had Justin jealous with the livetweeting of everything I was cramming down my throat, and he’s lucky that there was so much sensory overload going on all night, or there would’ve been plenty more:

An excuse to rock an outfit

View this post on Instagram

@wedding_crasher and @doomzto at the #FordBlueTO

A post shared by Ford Canada (@fordcanada) on

It’s been a while since I’ve done a Battle of the Bands, so the sequined vest sat in the closet, waiting to come out and play. The Ford Blue Party was the perfect opportunity to do so, and I think it worked out quite well!

Music and Entertainment

The dance moves of the Mayhem Dance Group and Kiss 92.5’s DJ Clymaxxx on the 1s and 2s made sure that this party was happening.

When I win, TeamTrolling wins

One of the unexpected twists of the night was winning a pair of wicked tickets to a Toronto Raptors game — all for dancing; something I would’ve done anyway. It’s like I say: there’s no reward for the timid. Life isn’t going to hook you up for standing on the wall and trying to look “cool” — get in there and show the world what you’ve got! With that said, thank you Ford Canada for the tickets — Justin and I had a great time — but more on that later!!!

In case you need context for just how awesome these seats were, check this out to see Section 108, Row 14:

Air Canada Centre Seating Chart for a Toronto Raptors Game

(SO GOOD.)

And of course, the 2014 Ford Fiesta

With Ford doing such a great job at engaging existing car lovers as well as trying to find new demographics, it’s great that the car looks as good as it does! With Sarah and I looking to buy a car in 2013, Ford’s made itself a contender, and I’ll be happy to spread the message of all they’re doing to adapt to an ever-changing world of social engagement. It’s good that there was a message behind all the lights and glamour, though…

The Overall Messages

The Ford Canada team made sure that we wouldn’t be drinking and driving, offering shuttle rides home to anyone in need, and making sure that everyone knew their limit. On top of that, we weren’t beholden to write anything, but from what I’ve seen, people are sharing the message because they had a great time. Of course, when a party is invite-only, it has its share of haters, as seen in the screen cap below:

A screenshot from the Ford Canada Facebook page of people hating on the Ford Blue Party
With haters, you’ve gotta take the venom in stride…

To the haters, here’s a message — you receive from social media what you put in to it. I mean this on two fronts — put negativity and snide remarks in, you’re going to get the same back. People generally extend a hand to those who they can respect and build relationships with. Why would you want to keep someone around who’s just bringing negative attitude and poisonous words to the table? Also, if you think you should be entitled to attend an event because you’ve already invested in the group holding it, prove your worth. Write blogs about your experiences. Make videos of other friends giving products a try. Shouting at the top of the mountain that you’ve been overlooked or wronged only makes you look like a complainer, which  brings us right back to the negative energy point. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

All in all, I’m happy that Ford Canada invited me to 2013’s Blue Party, and I hope it sets the tone for the rest of the year’s events!

How did YOU guys spend Snowmageddon?

Thanks for reading, guys!

–case p.

Valentine’s Day Ideas: Arbonne’s Energy Fizz Tabs, 5-in-1 Essential Massage Oil and Renewing Body Gelée

A "Total Eclipse of the Heart" heart I designed for a T-shirt competition
Turn around…

When I was younger, I was totally anti-Valentine’s Day. All it represented to me was yet another commercialized holiday that had stores doing whatever they had to do to get into our wallets.

Being a little older and a little wiser now, I can say there’s something here more important than the price tag you associate with the gifts you buy on special occasions…

…it’s what those gifts MEAN to the people you’re buying them FOR.

Bemoan the cost of roses and their short lifespans if you want, but the flowers, the chocolate, the cards and the fancy dinners — they all add up to building a memorable experience that you’ll be remembered for. It’s not how much you spend on something. It’s not how long you spend doing something. It’s whether it comes from the heart and whether that shows when you give the gift.

The actions you take that stand out from the norm is what forms someone’s distinct memories of you. If you don’t cook, learn how to whip up a memorable meal. If you’re not outdoorsy, going on a romantic hike should do the trick. Scared of heights? Hot air balloon ride. The unexpected is what’s key here, and what earns you extra points.

How Arbonne Got My Groove Back

Keeping all that in mind and paying homage to my Mansformation project (“transforming men from hateable to dateable”), Basia Downs from Arbonne sent me a few products that’d help me do something memorable for Sarah — give a kick-ass massage!

Left to right: Arbonne Seasource Detox Spa 5-in-1 Essential Massage Oil; Arbonne Seasource Detox Spa Renewing Body Gelée; and Arbonne Essentials Energy Fizz Tabs Citrus
L-R, Arbonne Seasource Detox Spa 5-in-1 Essential Massage Oil; Arbonne Seasource Detox Spa Renewing Body Gelée; and Arbonne Essentials Energy Fizz Tabs Citrus
  • Arbonne Essentials Energy Fizz Tabs Citrus
  • Arbonne Seasource Detox Spa 5-in-1 Essential Massage Oil
  • Arbonne Seasource Detox Spa Renewing Body Gelée

It might seem like a whole bunch of stuff for a simple massage, but each product plays its part! Lend me your ear and let me explain….

Arbonne Essentials Energy Fizz Tabs Citrus

First off, giving massages involves a lot of rigorous work, and you can’t keep up if you don’t have the energy to do it!

The energy fizz tabs are a great source of electrolytes — you’re gonna want to dissolve the tabs for 5-10 minutes instead of the 4-5 minutes suggested in the directions, so that everything dissolves evenly.

The tablets are a tasty citrus, and for someone who pushes themselves as hard as I do, it was good to not feel too fatigued to do anything.

The taste is basically that of water with a hint of citrus fruits and tastes just fine. I found it was good for after church, so I was able to get some things done and not lapse into my usual post-church nap!

Arbonne Seasource Detox Spa 5-in-1 Essential Massage Oil

One way to win brownie points is through a good massage, and if you’re a novice in the art of “doing things that make your partner go crazy”, don’t worry — the box has instructions on it:

Instructions for using the Arbonne 5-in-1 Essential Massage Oil
This is one of those cases where reading the fine print would be a really good idea!

Called 5-in-1 Essential Massage Oil because it supplies 5 different therapies (body massage, facial massage, facial steam, bath soak and aromatherapy), it has a musky scent of sunflower oil to it, but not in a bad way. Just really fragrant — likely to soothe the soul and getting one in the mood… if they’re looking for a happy ending with said massage!

(If you think I’m going to write a massage oil review and not refer to “happy endings” at least once, you’ve got the wrong guy!)

The good things about this oil are:

  • It’s not too greasy or sticky — it washes off pretty easily
  • Up here in the Canadian winters, it tends to stay at room temperature rather than other liquids that’re cold to the touch straight out of the bottle
  • The fact that it comes in a pump bottle rather than a squeeze one means you’ll have a lot less mess!

Arbonne Seasource Detox Spa Renewing Body Gelée

A picture of Arbonne's Seasource Detox Spa Renewing Body Gelée
It looks like lotion, but it’ll tingle when you put it on! …so be careful where you put it on 😐

The first thing I did when I took the gelée out of the box was wonder how it would be any different from lotion — as a Black man, I always need to make sure that my skin game is on point and not looking ashy. So I put it on (despite a slightly peculiar odour), expecting it to be a cooling feeling like just about every other lotion I’ve tried in the history of lotions.

So why did it tingle when I put it on???

Without fully going into its ingredients, I’d take a guess and say that this gelée has similar ingredients to what you’d find in muscle relaxant creams and gels like Icy Hot.

Woke up feeling fine after putting it on the night before, but I’m sure that it’d be more beneficial had I used it after one of my various intramural sports. Good that it can be combined with the massage oil for maximum effect, though I don’t know how they’d smell together. Probably only one way to find out, though!

The Final Verdict

An overview of the product details for the Arbonne seasource Detox Spa line
An overview of the product details for the Arbonne Seasource Detox Spa line

If you’re looking for an unforgettable gift, let Basia hook you up! There’re more products from the Seasource Detox Spa line including scrubs, washes and body masks that’re good gifts for any season — go to arbonne.ca and check it out!

Notes:

  • It takes a few days for delivery; order before Feb 8th to make sure it’s delivered by Valentine’s Day
  • If you want to order online, use Basia’s ID number: 115801580 (can’t make an order without an ID number!)
  • You can also contact Basia at any of the following avenues: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Google+

So that’s one more Valentine’s Day down and many, many, many more to go. I wish everyone out there tons of luck this Valentine’s season — may you find exactly what you’re looking for!

— case p.

[Disclosure: I wrote this post in exchange for products from Arbonne’s Basia Downs. But I’m honest and will never write a dishonest review for the sake of money — without integrity, we have nothing.]

The Lords of Winter — A Buytopia Skiing/Snowboarding Deal at Skyloft

Casey and friends at Horseshoe Valley, 2006.
2006 was a simpler time with whiter snow, colder winters and a serious need for adrenaline!

It’s -14°C outside, feeling like -21 with windchill. To everyone who’d complained that we weren’t getting a white Christmas, I hope you’re happy now.

It’s been ages since I’ve gone skiing (February 21, 2006 to be precise). I remember the last time I was on the slopes — barely knew what I was doing, but hitting hills because I could (and not doing a very good job of it). Winter sports have never been my forte, but when in Rome….

There’s No Business Like SNOW Business!

I’ve never been a fan of winter.

My parents always say that being born in Canada, I’d be used to the cold by now — but come on. I have my parents’ West Indian genes and the blood of someone who loves the heat flowing through his veins — how’re the cold and I gonna be friends?

To be honest, I’m probably the worst Canadian ever. I don’t follow hockey. I don’t drink Tim Horton’s coffee. And anything that has to do with water (frozen or not) that’s not a shower? Fuhgeddaboutit!

But where I see the snow and cold outside and think of it as a pain in the ass, I know there’re friends of mine who look at it and see opportunity. The friends who run straight to their sleds and toboggans (which I, too, hope to check off my list), or even better — to their skis and snowboards.

If You Like Going Down Hills of Snow at Ridiculous Speeds, DO I HAVE A PROPOSITION FOR YOU!!!

Having fun on the slopes doesn’t come cheap, though! If you go without your own equipment, there’s rental fees, the cost of a day pass, the change to use the ski lift, and heaven help you if you need to grab a meal or stay overnight!

Buytopia’s made the entire process a little easier, though, in a recent offering of a cheap deal where you can pay $45 for a Day Lift Pass and equipment rental, or $59 for a Day and Night Lift Pass with equipment rental at Skyloft up in Uxbridge, ON. An hour northeast of Toronto, Skyloft Ski Resort markets itself as the “best ski resort” with “the highest elevation in the area” — with only a short distance from the big city and these kinds of prices, how could you go wrong?

So if you want to go skiing, better do it soon — global warming waits for no one, the winters ain’t as cold as they used to be, and you only have a couple of days to take advantage of this deal at Buytopia, so if moving down hills of snow at ridiculous speeds is your thing, get off your butt and go save some money!

Go scope some slopes!

–case p.

[Disclosure: I wrote this post as a member of the Buytopia.ca Inner Circle, where we try goods and services before blogging about them and earn affiliate percentages for successful sales. But I’m honest and will never write a dishonest review for the sake of money — without integrity, we have nothing.]

I AM NOT A FOODIE: Cooking With Chef Pino, the Chef on Two Wheels

A shot of the van Chef Pino drives to carry all the goods for his services!
He’s had to upgrade to four wheels since his start all those years ago, but everything else remains much the same!

Today we take a short break from the November to Remember series to talk about an amazing experience I had last night, which involved one of the few things that’ve paralyzed me in my tracks for years —

cooking.

Back when my Dad used to run a restaurant, he would give me my first set of jobs ever. While I was really good at customer service and bookkeeping, there was one thing I really sucked at — and that was anything having to do with the kitchen.

No matter how hard I tried, I could never do prep work fast enough. Or cook anything right. The only thing I was good at in the kitchen was messing up. So after I got through that horrendous experience, I never got anywhere near cooking again!

So imagine my surprise when Buytopia.ca offered me the chance to get a 2-hour cooking class, where Chef Pino Padula would teach me how to make a 5-course meal, presumably without burning down the house!

Who is Chef Pino?

A shot of Chef Pino from his website.
Chef Pino at work. Source: http://thechefon2wheels.com/main/

Born and raised in Bari, Italy, Chef Pino got an early start in the restaurant biz when his father would pay him 10¢ a day to do dishes. Many days (and many more dishes) later, he would save up enough to buy his first bicycle. Continuing to work in restaurants as he went through his teenage years, more responsibility meant more money, the bicycle became a motorcycle and the legend of The Chef on 2 Wheels was born!

Chef Pino is an extremely personable gentleman who strives to get to know his clients and treats everyone with the same amount of respect. You get the same Chef Pino whether you spent your last dime hiring his services or you’re working on making your next million. He’s polite, he’s classy and he’s secure enough in knowing what he’s doing that he has no problem sharing his recipes and methods with you!

And for a couple of hours, he was bringing decades of experience (from such celebrated places as Toulà and catering for celebrities at both Toronto Fashion Week and the Toronto International Film Festival) to my home so he could teach me a thing or two… hundred.

The 5-course menu was lavish and offered tastes of things I normally wouldn’t have without finding a nice Italian restaurant to visit. The menu included:

Meat Menu

Appetizers: Thinly Slices Beef Carpaccio with Lemon Oil Dressing & Parmigiano Shavings

Pasta: Penne Alla Vodka

Intermezzo: Scroppino with Chaffonade Mint & Pink Peppercorn

Main Course: Encrusted Stuffed Pork Tenderloin  with swiss Cheese & Caramelized Onions

Dessert: Classic TAJAN Vanilla Ice cream in Affogato

Source: http://www.buytopia.ca/deal/2230/?skip=true&a_aid=casepam

Here’s a look at some of the prep work and outcomes of the food I got to try — everything was delicious!!!

What I Learned from Chef Pino Padula

You can’t help but learn from Chef Pino. There were little tips and tricks I’d pick up as he worked — like not putting the sauce in the skillet until the onions are translucent, or that hard cheeses go with pork and soft ones with chicken — but here’s 3 key lessons I’ll take with me when I try to make meals of my own!

1. You Can’t Make Good Food from Ingredients Gone Bad!

Chef Pino would emphasize multiple times that the thing giving his food so much flavour was its freshness. He buys everything as close to the prep date as possible, only holding on to ingredients for short periods of time before they’re no longer good — and his attention to detail definitely pays off!

2. You Get What You Pay For

You might think that a sauce is a sauce is a sauce, but Chef Pino would tell you how wrong you are. He showed us that cheaper sauces include seeds and skins, making them bitterer the longer you cook them, while premium sauces had neither, making them sweeter the longer they simmer. And he had tips for every ingredient.

3. Eat the Food the Way You’re Meant To Eat It

When I went to another course without cleansing my palate first, Chef Pino pointed out that I wouldn’t be getting the true flavour of the food. After following his advice and taking a mouthful of sgroppino, I could note flavours that I never would have tasted otherwise! So here it’s important to:

  • use a palate cleanser
  • eat the food fresh off of the stove
  • eat enough to appreciate the food but not so much that you regret it — your state of mind is part of the dining experience

Years later, my Dad would tell me that there was a lesson he wanted to teach me those days I spent in his kitchen staff:

“I want you to learn about the things you hate to do so you’ll go out and do amazingly at the things you love.”

While he may have been right that cooking wouldn’t be my secret to success, I don’t think he intended to turn me off from cooking forever.

Before Chef Pino came along, the kitchen would be the last place you’d ever find me. I’d take any chore over cooking if ever given the choice.

It only took two hours for Chef Pino to give my confidence back, and in the end that’s better value than I would’ve gotten from any cooking show.

Have We Tempted You?

If you want to try this experience  yourself, Buytopia has a deal for Chef Pino’s services! Instead of the $320 you’d normally shell out for the service I just described, you can score it for $99!!! Vouchers are good until December 16, 2013; he also offers fish and vegetarian menus; and can come to any house in the GTA. These make awesome Christmas, anniversary or birthday gifts for the people who already have everything and are impossible to shop for. (To be honest, I got a couple of vouchers, myself!)

You can check the deal out here: http://www.buytopia.ca/deal/2230/?skip=true&a_aid=casepam

And if that’s not enough incentive, I had some good chats with Chef Pino himself, and he’s informed me that this just might be the last round of discounts before it goes back up to full price forever! The deal’s only on until midnight Sunday, December 16, so if you want it, you’d better get it while it’s hot!

Thanks for reading, and if you do get the chance to try what Chef Pino has to offer, let me know how it goes!

–case p.

Next Up: Back to A November to Remember, Caribbean Edition!

[Disclosure: I wrote this post as a member of the Buytopia.ca Inner Circle, where we try goods and services before blogging about them and earn affiliate percentages for successful sales. But I’m honest and will never write a dishonest review for the sake of money — without integrity, we have nothing.]