WHO IS
ARLETTE?

April

14

Are you on the A-List?


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“I love what you’re wearing today!” said high school classmate Solange has she tore open her locker door and took out her 5th period books.

I smiled of gratitude, but couldn’t help but feel that perhaps she was being too generous in her propos: after all, my next-door locker mate, a stunning 5’10″ creature with an angelic face and Princess Bride mane, stunned with her natural good looks wherever she went. With her 90′s grunge style insouciance intact and a heartthrob senior boyfriend to boot, she possessed all the elements of the girl others loved to air-kiss in passing before they tore her to shreds secretly out of jealousy. But none of that typical high school cattiness was needed as far as I was concerned: I genuinely liked Solange.

“Thank you! But you say this to me every day!” I laughed.

“Well, if the shoe fits…” she continued. “You know where you’d fit right in?” Solange. “At Aldo!”

My tongue went numb inside my mouth has the words escaped her lips. Aldo? As in the uber-cool, stylish shoe mecca?

“I work there!” she exclaimed, as she shut the door of her locker. The newest revelation made her all the more mesmerizing.

“I LOVE ALDO!” I exclaimed rather loudly. “But…I have no retail experience, Solange. This would be my first job,” I revealed, somewhat ashamed.

She waved my admission away with her hand. “Details! Aldo trains and I know my boss would love your style!” she affirmed. “Give me your resume and I’ll take care of the rest. See you later!”

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That was 17 years ago and the feeling of having scored my very first job by way of a classmate’s endorsement rather than go through the standard newspaper classifieds made me feel like I had struck gold. Solange’s hunch was right on the money: her boss’ approval of my sartorial style landed me the job that would go on to be one of the best experiences of my life for almost two years.

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Being able to journey back to where it all began last night, albeit in a new wing of the Rideau Centre, brought back memories of the Great Expectations soundtrack blaring on repeat as me and my colleagues catered to in-the-know customers by day or broke into funny dances and sing-alongs during inventory nights. Now Ottawa’s flagship store, the revamped Aldo store clearly continues to deliver on its promise of standout footwear and accessories in a space that matches a new generation of customers in flamboyant energy.

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I was pleasantly surprised to be chosen one of blogger hostess Marilou Moles’ special winners for my throwback 90′s boy-casualness-meets-sexy-vixen look, which saw me walk away with a pair of shoes of my choosing and the #SELFIE tote I alluded to being in love with on IG less than a week ago (just when mama needed a new pair of shoes and a quirky bag, the heavens answered!). Needless to say, my new goodies will be making an appearance on the blog very soon…

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Although the two-hour event buzzed with your standard staples of music, treats and customers stocking up on spring and summer lovelies, I was most impressed by the service the Aldo staff gave guests, which is essentially the same care I was taught during my tenure at the Canadian retailer.  That same genuine willingness that my then-colleagues and I bestowed upon customers in those days remains very much a part of Aldo’s makeup — while other brands may have started modestly and let the glare of expansion blind them from the mandate of providing great service, Aldo remains steadfast in its mission to see customers walk away with quality products and a desire to return to that careful attention. A visit from some of Aldo’s headquarter representatives further proved that the brand is one that is inclusive of the customer experience from A to Z (view the riot fest of photo booth poses on Instagram under #AldoAList).

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Tipping my hat to Skyfall Blue for showing a girl a good time and most of all, thanking Aldo for making me feel like 17 Again

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Avec amour,

- A

Photo credit: W. Orellana (@only1o_)

April

06

In the Land of the Growing Tribe


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Once upon a time, a little tribe of three made its home in one of the most notoriously questionable neighborhoods in the Nation’s Capital: Vanier. Dubbed “Popcorn City” by those who’ve lived there long enough to let the insult roll of their backs, Las Vanier (another “clever” moniker thought up by one of the local businesses) became the said trio’s pied-à-terre — what wasn’t there to love about an unpretentious neighbourhood of friendly Francophones who have been calling the area home for over three decades?

Affordable rent and ridiculously close amenities aside, the trio found itself enjoying the charming, full-of-character abode that bordered on cardboard dimensions (only comparable in size to Khloe Kardashian’s closet). They freshened up cupboards with new door knobs, added fancy new light fixtures, installed grasscloth wallpaper (the year’s decorating must) to one of the dining room’s walls, and had custom throw pillows and drapes made in velvety fabrics that induced whistles of admiration from the few who crossed the threshold of their doorstep (“If it’s good enough for Sarah Richardson, it’s good enough for us!” they enthused, referencing the snazzy fabrics purchased at one of the famed designer’s favorite Toronto stores). They found a way to live with the cubic-size bathroom that offered a 3′ distance from door to bathtub, focusing instead on the fact that no one remained in the confined space for very long. They marveled at the simplicity of life in these small quarters and were grateful to have found a place that knocked off all of their must-haves for a first rental home.

But then came the surprise that none of them could have anticipated: that little house, as cozy as it seemed with its curved archways and crackling hardwood floors, turned out to be hotter than Mexico in peak season. The sweltering heat impregnated every crevice as soon as outdoor temperatures rose and no amount of air whistling through the opened windows seemed to bring relief. They humored themselves with the idea of sleeping in their bathing suits at night as clearly the puddles of sweat they woke up from in the morning hinted the harrowing situation they found themselves in. After several nights, she marched over to her landlord’s, hell-bent on finding a solution to their discomfort. To her shock and dismay, the landlord refused to allow air conditioning, stating that this would take away from the charm of the 30-plus year old house and cause its fragile structure to collapse. Instead, he suggested planting fans all over the house, in addition to Mother Nature’s own swift breathing.

That summer seemed to bring out the worst in all of them as sweat beads trickled down their bodies like waterfalls. Malls became their favorite escape for no other reason than the reprieve of cool air. They found themselves trekking to the other side of the bridge more times than they cared to, desperate times calling for the comfort of her parents’ air conditioned house and refreshing and glistening pool. If that summer hadn’t been nightmarish enough, a second go-round the following summer made it sufficiently clear that they wouldn’t tempt fate three times in that charming/full-of-character abode that saw them fry away like sizzling bacon. They only believed the move would happen for a split second…until news that the tribe would be growing gave them the resolve to believe that better days were ahead.

On the hunt for a new place to call home! Stay tuned for developments…

Avec amour,

- A

Photo credit: lagaellou.com

March

25

Spring, where art thou?


From the world to winter: “I HATE YOU SO MUCH RIGHT NOW!” (cue grunt)

You know we’ve been in this mess for way too long: that dreary, drag-its-feet nightmare that is the winter of 2013-2014. Are we still hashtagging #polarvortex all over our SM platforms like a one-liner dance track chorus? A close friend of mine brought to my attention yesterday that we’ve been dealing with the cold stuff for 182 days already — yep, it first greeted us back in October, when all of us were still shooting for a dose of “polished meets cute” by partaking in our favorite fall activity of “layering up”. I’ll say it for us all: this is bulls**t and all of us want OUT of this seasonal relationship that has definitely overstayed its welcome. How do we cure our blues while we patiently wait for spring to stop being a tease? 

I wish I could give you guys a clear answer: sometimes, that’s all there is to it — WAITING. Life tests us that way and we roll with the punches. We occupy our minds the best way we know how, filling our calendars with obligations, activities and dates of any kind that are sometimes overdue and sometimes meaningless, but it somehow helps us deal with that feeling of inadequacy — you know, the one of not being in control of certain things.

Although wallowing in winter blues has been my sauce for as long as I can remember, this year has played along to my bold #epicyear declaration so far. It started out with a bang in more ways than one and brought along the most unexpected surprise of all: I’m expecting!

Yes, I am with child (sounds far more romantic than saying I got knocked up, no?)

It’s been exhilirating, a little surreal, maddening, but nonetheless, a joyous time for the O clan, our families and friends. I took a page from my dear friend Lori and decided to just come right out and say it because I’m a no fuss kind-of-gal (except when I’m tasked with the job of planning a super secretive surprise affair for a loved one that may or may not require me to jump out of a gigantic cake like a demented clown).

How am I holding up so far?

MENTALLY: climbing every fluffy, pillowy cloud to heaven. When you’ve prayed for so long for the blessing of a child, feeling as if life was conspiring against you (my daily work ritual consisted of counting the number of pregnant women I crossed at work), you cannot help but feel overjoyed when it finally happens to you…and send up prayers for those who are still waiting on their turn. I believed and I received; I now stay tuned to that channel for all the women who eagerly await their season of receiving.

PHYSICALLY: feeling like the pits, which has led others to think that my desk job has me pushing maximum density. Is this how it was the first time around? It’s been 13 years since I’ve had Jay, so my mind has been blurred memories and not much movie funny reels. That pregnancy glow that shone down on me then, bringing with glorious shiny locks, a skin devoid of pimples and that I-swear-I’m-5-months-along belly reveal has all but been unheard and unseen this time around. This right here are The Hunger Games of pregnancy: cravings, aversions, strong smells and nausea (oh, the nausea!), which have me looking defeated one minute, paralyzed by fear the next and defiant 24/7. Perhaps I ought to pitch my baby nursery rhyme ”Have mercy, baby!” to Madonna — you know, to go along with her line of baby books…

SOCIALLY: doing my very best to keep my friendships intact when the only person I truly wish to confide in is my bed. Luckily for me, those who’ve been in on the secret come armed to the nines with offers of foot massages, back rubs, weekly home cooking offerings (thanks, Mom!) and two-hour maximum get-togethers, all in an effort to keep me smiling wide like the Joker for as long as humanly possible before I morph into a deconstructed Picasso.

Yes, it’s different this time around and although winter has been annoying and overbearing, it did get one thing right this year: it brought the anticipation of better days ahead with the added bonus of a li’l someone worth waiting for. And while we’re still here killing time and waiting for l’hiver to get the hint, why not play…

The “Spring, where art thou?” game!

I’m three months and two days in and am expected to deliver in early October. Tell me: 1) what do you think I’ll be having: a boy or a girl? and 2) when do you think I’ll deliver? (a specific date, por favor!). Comment below or tweet me using the hashtag #BabyO. May the baby dust force be with you!

Avec amour,

- A

Photo credit: notsuperhuman.com

March

14

And we’re back…


Well, well, well…what do we have here? Une revenante? Pardon my absence of the last 4+ weeks — I’ve had a harrowing couple of weeks where I considered a leap off of the nearest bridge when my entire blog was deleted from a complete mishap with my hosting provider. And although I could recount every painful and excruciating detail of my descent into Blog Hell, I much rather focus on how the experience itself taught me one very touching lesson: I love this space more than I ever imagined possible. I love what I’ve built on WIA and how this past year has really been the turning point in my life that answered a question I’ve long asked myself:

WHAT DO I WANT TO BE?

Turns out, writing was the wondrous light at the end of this existential question tunnel and once I was able to shuck the excuses to the side, I was able to be AND see WIA clearly, and that’s the greatest late-in-life gift to have landed on my lap. So if you’re still visiting this space and have found it in your heart to forgive my “wayward” ways, then please rest assured that I will continue to devote love and attention to the one place where I’m free to be myself and where, luckily, you’ve embraced me as I am. The year is still young, non? On fait des erreurs et on se relève! (for my non-French speaking friends, this translates into “we make mistakes, but we get back up!”).

Now, how do we get back into the groove of things? I’ll go straight to the point and let the arrows fall where they may: why do our homegrown brands continue to shun Canadian bloggers in favor of our already-established and successful cousins to the south? At the rate that things are going, being a Canadian blogger is slowly turning cloud-in-the-sky dreams into cream puff ones that are crushed by our very own ‘Oh Canada’ brands. How, do you ask?

Are Canadian brands hiding away the cheese from its own bloggers?

Are Canadian brands hiding away the cheese from its own bloggers?

Exhibit A: Canadian luxury e-tailer eLUXE collaborated late last year with California blogging queen Aimee Song of Song of Style on an exclusive line of tees and sweatshirts, which Aimee herself conceptualized by marrying some of her favorite everyday phrases to colloquial urban expressions. The verdict is in and evidently points at Ms. Song’s ever-growing popularity, which eLUXE confirmed through an Instagram image of orders piled high, using this caption: “From the windoooow to the wall!! @songofstyle and your @shopeluxe orders are taking over the office!! #doepicchic #voiLA”. I will let this one marinate for a minute before we can get to the juice.

Exhibit B: Vancouver-based retailer Aritzia tapped another L.A. darling, Julie Sariñana of Sincerely Jules, along with two other American bloggers, for its Northern Lights campaign shot this past November in Yukon (if you’re asking what Yukon is, you’re proving my point already). Shown walking the tundra hills of the Great White North, Ms. Sariñana’s blinding tan against our cold and white powder certainly make her look enchanting, but will in no way replace her weekly Instagrammed servings of palm trees against pastel pink skies.

For the record, I love me some Ms. Song and Ms. Sariñana like a fish loves water; they each possess that rare combination of beauty and humility in that saccharine way that’ll have you paying a visit to your dentist, so the issue is not with the women themselves: after all, they’ve paid their dues and are simply collecting the Caesar coins of their blood, sweat and tears. No, my issue rests with these so-called “Proudly Canadian” brands. I am no King Solomon, able to exact perfect and divine justice and wisdom upon thee, but I do observe the industry and the ways in which many brands’ actions often do not seem to align with their “message” to be inclusive, seek new blood and give Canadian shoppers a strong sense of belonging.

Now, mind you, I’m very much aware that this is a BILLION-dollar industry for which the bottom line is the only line worth looking into, no matter how much brands spin the record on safer manufacturing practices, eco-friendly confections and a so-called “return” to the essence of creation as opposed to what the art form has become (a media circus of parading bloggers, wannabees and celebrities). But if the industry’s primary concern is to bring forth change in  a way that makes ALL fashion lovers feel included, why are we bombarded by the same blogging faces through several brand campaigns? In other words…

Whose mother or handler do smaller and medium-tier bloggers must kiss to get a piece of the action?

Here is my take: companies must do their due diligence in researching the homegrown Canadian bloggers who consistently show their brands love. Reward these efforts by showing those very bloggers that the dream of partnership is not but a shiny pony and that it is, in fact, attainable for them as well, especially when these bloggers have already proven themselves loyalists of “la marque”. Not to burst these Canadian brands’ bubbles, but these top-tier bloggers that they’re so intent on having front their campaigns view them as just another notch on their jewel-encrusted belts — for these brands to assume that these “bloggernaires” will dedicate their entire attention to their brands alone from this point forward is like assuming one can happily live off of one type of meal for the reminder of their lives (read: not likely). If we factor in the cost these Canadian brands pay these top-tier bloggers (representation fee, accommodations, etc.), wouldn’t it be more economical for them to consider homegrown talents, at a fraction of the cost and for double the enthusiasm? I often come across bloggers who repeatedly rep a specific brand as their ultimate go-to with such fervor that one would be inclined to think they are being paid in Mascot dollars for their enthusiasm. But somehow, they are overlooked. Why is that? Is it that their blogs have not received enough “hits” to elicit interest? Is it that these bloggers do not possess the cachet that the higher-tiered bloggers possess? Or again, is it that brands are simply focused on generating the quickest buzz around their products rather than build relationships with die-hard devotees, who in turn, can potentially yield them a much more favorable response from readers already aware of their infatuation with said brand?

Perhaps I’m fishing too wide and casting my net too far, but I’ve grown frustrated at seeing amazing talent being ignored time and again. Canadian brands, if you’ve come across this page by some fluke of random web surfing on a quiet Friday afternoon, please consider those who already live in your backyward, many of which are equally deserving of the praise and admiration that you bestow upon the coveted 1%. If you are in doubt, I hope that visiting the three blogs listed below will help you see the wondrous, Canadian light…in all its four seasons incarnation.

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THE BLOG: Bleed for Fashion | http://www.bleedforfashion.com/

THE DARLING: Lily

THE 411: A twenty-something Vancouver-based blogger with a face so angelic heaven must have sectioned off a corner of its paradise just for the likes of her. Magnificent fashion style depicted through stunning photography is only one part of the equation – Lily’s candid thoughts and musings on life and the maturity of her reflections make up the crème fraîche of her online universe. I’m addicted; you ought to be too.

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THE BLOG: WeBeWearing | http://webewearing.com/

THE DARLINGS: Chelsea, Ali and Sarah

THE 411: Who said those who bore children have to stick to the mommy jeans/puke-stained shirts/and disheveled hair lane? The ladies of WeBeWearing are certainly not about that life, as clearly demonstrated by their countless, jaw-dropping changing room outfits that keep the masses loving them to pieces on Instagram (bonus: their equally fashionable tots sometimes make appearances). They do not make these mommas the way they used anymore and that’s a darn good thing for all of us!

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THE BLOG: The Weekenders | http://www.theweekendersfashionblog.com/

THE DARLINGS: Angelic & Julia

THE 411: The two lovely ladies who front The Weekenders are like sunshine bottled up into beautifully packaged assembles of lust-worthy dresses one minute and stand-out edgy looks the next. They also prove to be excellent marketers, having successfully scored invitations for themselves to the Canadian Arts & Fashion Awards. Beautiful doers and go-getters? Go get ‘em! 

As for you, dear readers, do you know a Canadian blogger who deserves accolades and the attention of our Canadian brands? If you had the opportunity to work with any brand, who would it be? I’m all ears!

Avec amour,

- A

Image credit: Mayer George Vladimirovich via Independent Fashion Bloggers

February

19

H.I.M.


This is a story about him: the one you love and the one you’re to be betrothed to. This is not a story about how this day is all about you and you alone, no matter how much society and Bridezilla episodes featuring ill-mannered Barracudas would lead you to believe it. No…it couldn’t possibly be entirely about you alone for if it was, there would have to be complete abnegation of the One who worked diligently at proving why you two belonged together. There would have to be total effacement of the One who worked out every itty bitty detail of the kind of proposal he knew would speak to your life memories. The puzzle of your life, as it stands, would have to be accepted as unfinished without the One who rehearsed, time and again, how he would ask you to become #hisforever. There would have to be utter rejection of the One who pledged his love for you to the depths of the earth because (#atlast!) he understands what he had  been missing all his life. Without this creature of flesh, feelings and fervor, you wouldn’t be in a position to enjoy the exhilarating rush of diamond sparkler-showing/blushing bride dress parading/Pin-my-wedding-dreams planning intricacies of the Big Day you’ve dreamed of since you were a little girl.

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On a Sunday afternoon, you decide to reward his efforts, patience and resilience with a “delightful” afternoon at yet ANOTHER wedding show, his resolve dictating his long-held belief that there would be nothing in it for him other than the pleasure of your company. But then he discovers the Groom Lounge — yes, the Groom Lounge: the first of its kind at a swanky and modern bridal show, which not only delights him, but further proves that his manly cajones can remain firmly in place.

As he walks into the 2nd level room dedicated to all things , he looks around suspiciously: luckily, no brides come jumping out at him from his 90-degree peripheral to swaddle him in wedding gown frills. Instead, there before him is a buffet of mouthwatering sweets made of (what’s this?) maple-bacon donuts, stout cupcakes and spiced popcorn, which he wastes no time indulging in. On a nearby table topped with hurricane lanterns and tree branches (a lovely rustic detail you mentally check off as your 2,014th wedding idea) sit a dozen jugs of sparkling water, which certainly would appeal to your jet-setting cousin Márkus from Switzerland, but for the donut-eating Homer that is your sweetheart, regular H2o, served in equally charming glass decanters, quench the thirst right out of that icy mouth. You spot the mustached groom’s cake atop the sweets table and look for a possible reaction to the effect of approval: your doubts are later put to rest when you check your Instagram feed and see that he’s taken a picture of the three-tiered masterpiece, posted with this caption: “Wouldn’t mind a groom’s cake like that one!?” You note the omission of a filter and the fatal absence of hashtags. One thing at a time, you reason…

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You sigh a breath of relief and trail behind him slowly, letting him feel his way around. His eyes widen and you follow his gaze: centrally-located are brown leather couches, atop of which are thrown homey Tartan-patterned throws that are an ode to Canadian cottage life. “How cool, huh?” you enthuse and you stop dead in your tracks, realizing your misstep — the giant flat screen TV before you lets you know what commends all his attention and you secretly curse the speaking box’s snake charming, multicolor ways. Just when you think you’ve lost your man to the going-ons of a city whose name you’ve repeatedly mispronounced as SUSHI, his curiosity is piqued by other she-dragged-me-here attendees as they wait patiently to get hot shaves from the gentlemen of House of Barons, the city’s poshest barbershop. He runs his fingers over his growing scruff, the one that drives you absolutely out of your wits with animalistic desire and which you secretly hope will become a permanent fixture that’ll keep you hot and bothered. But as he turns to you with that questioning look on his face, you already know what’s coming: “Is this free?” he asks. You nod. “I’ll get one, then. I mean, if it’s free…” At the rate you’re both going, communication will be the least of your relationships worries. One time for #compromise.

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You decide to make a break for it as he takes his seat into the barber chair, having heard rumors that a complimentary glass of wine was being offered to all attendees. You are on the move and on a mission and quickly fall into your own universe of breathtaking gowns, sparkly jewels, a complimentary braid bar and makeup applications, all to the soothing musical stylings of a piano-playing soloist that gives good Nora Jones. Inside the main exhibition room, you peruse one stunning table presentation after another and rework your wedding budget mentally: this is what your wedding dreams are made of — glorious colors, textures and bubbly wedding vendors! You resolve to eat tuna and bread for six months (or sell a kidney if need be), but you WILL get Ottawa’s best talents, who as a matter-of-fact, are all saddled next to one another in a sequence of dreamy, dreamier and dreamiest.

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Panic, however, soon sets in. You must head back to the Groom’s Lounge before he finds himself crying harder than a child lost in a mall. You are riddled with guilt over having left him all by himself, which you imagine will begin a war of words on neglect. But no sooner do you land among the men that it hits you: he’s not at all distraught! In fact, your now clean-shaven honey is seated on one of the couches, sipping a complimentary steaming cup of coffee while surrounded by a little more than a dozen of his temporary best dawgs. You are startled when in unison, they all cheer loud as Team Canada scores one for the lead. He looks up to realize you were standing there the whole time and gives you his most disarming smile: the kind that makes him look like that boyish wonder you fell in love with a long time ago. You conclude that this is also his time.

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One hour to the end of the party, you try not to appear too hasty as you tap him on his shoulder while he’s in deep talk with a few good men. As you step out and you grab a swag bag, you can’t imagine this day going any better until he says these words: “This was actually fun! Thanks for thinking of me, babe.”

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Maybe this story is about you after all — your love and commitment to him and your willingness to fill your world with beauty and wonder, but never without him. Something tells me he’s known it all along – that’s why he put a ring on it…

Thank you to the mastermind behind The Ottawa Bridal Party 2014, Rebecca Allen, for the gracious invitation.

Avec amour,

- A

Photo Credit: W. Orellana/C. Arlette Orellana

February

15

Love to love ya, baby!


Well, folks, I had my first official radio segment earlier today and let me tell you: if Speedy Gonzales and I were competing in the same Olympics, that little rug rat wouldn’t stand a chance against me! That’s how fast the whole thing went by — me talking a 100 miles per hour…everything being a blur…and then it was all over. Now, I’m aware things are still in their “experimental” stage, so I have to learn to pace myself like any human being blessed with the virtue of patience and get it into my thick skull that this is a journey and not a race. But then, when I consider the amount of work that went into preparing for the segment and how most of it didn’t even get covered on the air, that’s when I have to do like Carl Winslow and repeat a “soothing” mantra to keep my brain wires from going up in smoke. How does one remedy such a situation?

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“Sometimes you wanna go, where everybody knows your name…”

Why should my non-French speaking readers be excluded from the fun? No matter what, WIA remains my primary home – it’s where I found my voice and the reasons that motivate my actions every day, and as long as you and I are invested in each other like lovesick teenagers, this love will continue to flourish into endless love territory.

Now, on to real business, shall we? Valentine’s Day may had been last night, but trust that the city will find all sorts of enticing ways to get you to give up your hard-earned dollars for their overpriced prix fixe menus and their throng of Valentine’s Day perks all weekend long. But if you are like many who choose to stay in and host a group of friends rather than brave the unforgiving cold, let me state that: A) You speak my language and B) You know where’s it at!

Here are my top 5 tips for putting together a last-minute exotic dinner with friends, based on some of the content shared with listeners on the radio show today:

1) TEXT, CALL OR FACEBOOK TO INVITE THE CREW

Time is of the essence, which calls for tried-and-true ways to communicate: text, call or Facebook to give your people all the deets on the who, what, where and why. Ask that invitees bring a bottle of wine or a dessert of their choice. But above all else, insist that everyone RSVP by a specific time so this gives you enough time to place your takeout order. Note: once you have your final head count, make sure to order twice the amount of food to the number of confirmed guests: this will ensure that all will eat to their hearts’ content, to the point where buttons will pop like champagne corks!

2) ADD SIMPLE DECORATIVE TOUCHES

When it comes to décor, I’m a bit of a snob: balloons equal the kiss of death to good taste…except on Valentine’s Day. If there was ever a time to bathe in clichés, this holiday is IT! The trick is to use everything in abundance to create an explosive look. I also like to rely on groupings of votive candles to evoke the sexiness of a lounge. On your itinerary, a quick stop by your local Dollar Store to score artificial palm leaves; another one by your grocery store or wholesale florist for a bouquet of roses; and lastly, a tablecloth in a solid color rented from your local party store will help you achieve the look in no time.

MY GO-TO SPOTS FOR DECOR ITEMS WITHIN OTTAWA

Décor Rentals | CODY PARTY (Multiple locations)

Flowers | VALLEY FLOWERS. Wide range of blooms sold at wholesale prices. In my Bon Qui Qui voice, you welcome.

3) ORDER IN AND SET THE TABLE

Given that we’re talking about an exotic dinner, the chances of you majoring in Cajun cuisine in a matter of hours like a modern-day Julia Childs are slim to none, chil’, so this is where your local Caribbean and Latin joints become your new best friends. Order in three hours ahead of dinner to allow the restaurant enough time to fully prepare your order and then, trek over to the restaurant to pick it up, making sure the order is complete (additionally, this saves you in delivery fees). Once home, set up your table buffet-style with your rented linen and spread rose petals on top. After having carefully cleaned your artificial palm leaves with dishwashing liquid and water, set them on your nicest plates and place your ordered food directly on the leaves. Voilà! You’ve brought the tropics home. Below are pictures of a delicious meal I recently took home from Havana Café & Catering – flavorful, colorful, just plain wonderful!

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GO-TO CARIBBEAN LOCATIONS WITHIN OTTAWA

Havana Café & Catering | 1200 Bank St.

Fishy’s Tropical Caribbean Style Cuisine | 556 Montreal Rd.

Island Flava | 409 Dalhousie St.

4) CREATE A PLAYLIST THAT HONORS LOVE…AND ITS MANY FACES!

Humans will never tire of love songs: they are engrained in us like our own heartbeats. But let’s be real: must every love song come peppered with the thought of rainbows, unicorns and love eternal optimism? Far from it! Love is a many splendid thing, but realistically, we all face different scenarios at any given moment: some of us are in the throes of burning love, while others are faced with heartbreak, or prefer to enjoy “happily single” statuses. Why not create a playlist that takes into account all of these scenarios? George and Gina are madly in love and only have eyes for each other? Give them something to sing about with Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s ”Crazy in Love”. Your girl Christie is tearing up over the end of her relationship? Reenergize her with Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”. Your colleagues Martin and Ethan are hardcore bachelors who live by the motto “Work hard, play harder”? Then playing Mark Morrison’s ”Return of the Mack” as they roll up to your shindig is sure to ignite chuckles. Songza is my favorite music service and right now, there are several Belated Valentine’s Day playlists available online that will appeal to the lovers, fighters and players.

5) CAPTURE THE MEMORIES…IN THE OLD SCHOOL STYLE!

Oh, how we love the era of technology in which we live! With social media having changed the way we live, play and communicate, capturing the night’s shenanigans is a matter of a click. Here are my two tips for ensuring that those memories never get lost:

  • Hit with a case old school pics nostalgia? Polamatic, a Polaroid app, plays to your sentimentality like it was 1985! For $1.03 CAD, one can download the app from the iTunes or PlayStore app and in no time, add filters to their photographs, as well as text in the picture’s border the way they would a real Polaroid! (All together now) Oh snap!
  • Create a hashtag for your party and invite your friends to use it to caption their captured shots. This way, all of the evening’s memories can easily be traced, allowing absentees to stay in the loop.

BONUS: DRESS THE PART; ROCK THE LOVE!

Style, we’ve already established, is a subjective matter, so I will trust that you each can find what will make you feel your prettiest/handsomest/sexiest. This for me, means playing up the Vixen factor: with this sequined vintage top courtesy of AMH Style, a local shop that will most certainly be seeing a lot more of this face in the coming months, I felt like the best of Christmas in February! Paired with my favorite weekend staple (leather pants), this is the kind of ensemble that goes hand-in-hand with the confidence you know you exhibit when you are at your I-feel-so-good-nothing-can-touch-me best. There’s a kick in your step; a smile so wide it blinds; and in my case, a healthy Mauvelous cheek glow, shiny red lips in Enticing Desirable and vampy nails in Divine courtesy of Revlon. If I wasn’t under the weather, I’d certainly paint the town red (pun intended) and leave sparkle dust on my trail.

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Loving ourselves is to accept whichever state we find ourselves in and agreeing to come together in harmony.

Happy belated Valentine’s Day!

Avec amour,

- A

Photo credit: W. Orellana

February

12

We gonna let it burn…


I’ve been awful, neglecting this spot and all of you, but trust that the reasons for this will be self-explanatory very soon. If you are here, allow me to curtsy in my imaginary Les Misérables rags, singing you a thousand “mea culpas” to beg your forgiveness: it’s not easy being a girl, well…ever at times. While blokes roll out of bed and resume their routines in 3 steps or less, it seems women deal with several concerns at once, our minds racing with the thought of checking off that mental list as quickly as humanly possible, which can be taxing on both the body and the mind. And although I am grateful every day for the things I get to experience via this platform, I’d come to forgot the meaning of relaxation and its many splendid benefits.

Definition of RELAXATION according to LE PETIT ARLETTE: the act of learning to slow your row/chillax/chill-Bill/take-a-chill-pill.

The FOMO phenomenon may be a legit concern for those who sleep gripping cell phones like a sixth digit, but greater things come from enjoying the One Life one gets.

Speaking of #onelifetolive, how could I not acknowledge the annual “heart-warming” displays that pay homage to l’Amour? The burst of pink and red ornaments that make up each store’s temporary “wallpaper”; the sight of Baby Cupid dangling from up above, adoringly pointing his arrow at us in such a way that leads us to believe that this hit will feel much more like soothing honey than an actual bee’s sting; and the rush! Oh the delirious rush of producing the clichéd gifts of chocolates, cards and roses that double in price! Let us not forget the elaborate marriage proposals of the brave ones who hold the steadfast belief that “All We Need is Love”! We are in the deep of it this week, folks, and yours truly does not look down on V-Day, oh no! In fact, being the pop culture junkie that I am, I often wonder where some of my favorite TV and movie couples of yesteryear would be today if they were living and breathing beings – perhaps still in the throes of that burning love, or causing each other so much pain and heartache that the only redeeming quality of what they once were is in facing the demise of who they’ve become; or perhaps moving on hurriedly with others found to be “good enough”, only to realize that “safe” is not what they were ever after – being with the One who has their heart is.

For Wednesday fun, let us explore my 8 favorite couples from TV and movie land, where they were then and where I imagine they would be today.

3 FICTITIOUS COUPLES I WOULD LOVE TO SEE RESURRECTED IN 2014! (in no order of preference)

1. PACEY AND JOEY | Dawson’s Creek

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You know them as: Pacey Witter and Josephine “Joey” Potter, 90′s teenage protagonist Dawson Leery’s childhood best friends, who differed both in attitudes and aspirations. The class clown and the strait-laced girl-next-door didn’t hide their outer disgust of one another…until a school year seeing each other through broken hearts and teenage angst blossomed into a secret love story so juicy that it caused us two childhood pals to go from best friends to bitter rivals. You know it was next level devastation when this crying face became etched into our minds for all eternity!

The words that had me at “Hello”…: is there ANY moment in which I didn’t feel utterly taken by these two? Pacey ALONE is the reason 90′s girls held out for the quintessential boy wonder who does, says and acts with such deep love and passion for his lady that turning one into a vampire is the cop-out version of true romance (sorry, Twihards!). Try this for size: “The simple act of being in love with you is enough for me.” GAWD! #enoughsaid

Where would they be now: DC fans know this couple went on to have its happy ending in the series’ finale, but would it be enough today? 2014 update: Joey is a New York Best Sellers List author and Pacey is at the helm of one of NYC’s most popular eateries, Pacey’s Dish. All is smooth sailing until long-time pal Dawson comes calling with an offer to make Joey the main producing writer of his upcoming feature film, the next logical step for the overachiever. Will she leave the comfort of New York and take on L.A. with her childhood love or remain within the confines of Pacey’s arms? If all else fails, I can most certainly accept a renewed real-life romance between Joshua Jackson and Katie Holmes!? A girl can dream, no?

2. FELICITY AND BEN | Felicity

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You know them as: Inexperienced and optimistic Felicity Porter, who overhauls her college plans to follow the object of her affections, Ben Covington, to New York City after he writes her a message in her yearbook that essentially foreshadows the series’ raison d’être. Her bold move pays off, but comes without no shortage of roommate drama, cheating scandals, overbearing parents trauma and a return to the past by way of some “Butterfly Effect” spell aimed at steering her life onto the right path…or does it?

The words that had me at “Hello”…: Between the two of them, Ben hardly had anything too say and Felicity had too much to say, but they found a way to build a world that gave us the fuzzes and made us reevaluate our own way of communicating. However, when Ben delivers this sweet plea to Felicity in the series’ finale, we were made fully aware that no matter how much these two loved, hurt and broke each other’s hearts, they were destined to be together.

Where would they be now: Happily married, living in Connecticut and raising teenage daughter Piper, a naïve teenage girl who will soon flee to Brooklyn to follow a hot musician she becomes infatuated with on the subway after he writes a song about her on a whim. Felicity would see red, listing the countless reasons why this move would prove detrimental to Piper. Feeling beside herself, Piper would call on her mother’s college roommate and good friend, Meghan Rotundi, asking that she cast a spell on Felicity to show her what her life would have turned out to be had she chosen not to follow Ben to New York City. CW, do you still have Keri Russell and Scott Speedman on speed dial?

3. VERONICA AND LOGAN (Veronica Mars)

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You know them as: Witty and two-steps-ahead-of-you high schooler Veronica Mars, who moonlights as a private investigator. Originally a popular girl, she becomes a school outcast after she accuses her former boyfriend’s family of being behind the death of her best friend Lily. Matters are further complicated for young Veronica not only because Lily was Veronica’s ex’s younger sister, but also the girlfriend of the school’s DA (designated a**hole), bad boy Logan Echolls, aka the One Veronica will soon realize she cannot shake.

The words that had me at “Hello”…: Too many to count. Sure, Logan spelled trouble with a ginormous T, but he also was sold on Veronica like a crack addict taking in his fix. Their relationship was tumultuous at best, but their chemistry was so undeniable that such words from Logan as “My eyes adore you” made our hearts melt like M&Ms on a hot summer day. Needless to say, LoVE (as fans know them) have such a loyal following that many of us went on to wish bitter death to Veronica’s next boyfriend, sweet and caring Stosh “Piz” Piznarski.

Where would they be now: I’ll let the producers of Veronica Mars take this one. At long last, fans will be put out of their misery on March 14th as the full cast takes to the big screen to delight Marshmallows (VM fans) in one of the most-anticipated movies of the year – the perfect antidote to a fantastic and smart series that ended prematurely in ’07. Simply watch this little gem. Live it. Love It. Now pick a side. PICK A SIDE! #TeamLogan

Tell me, who are your favorite TV couples?

Sources: Getty Images; Spoiler TV; Veronica Mars Movie Official FB Page

February

03

In One Year…


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IN ONE YEAR…I witnessed firsthand that taking chances can blow the lid wide open on unlikely ways life can surprise you.

IN ONE YEAR…I saw how turning a middle name that felt like a satire served as a cathartic release from fear and apprehension and became the best revenge against childhood ridicule. There’s no need for a nursery rhyme to put the past to sleep – I learned to use the wings I’ve been entrusted and fly as high as I can dream it.

IN ONE YEAR…I followed my husband’s inkling of bringing my Twitter persona to a broader arena, opening the Pandora Box of opportunities and helping me reconnect with “dormant” dreams (hello, writing! How I’ve missed you!)

IN ONE YEAR…I have met a slew of bright, electric, talented, interesting and arresting individuals, each one of them chasing their dreams tirelessly and not allowing convention decide where they belong or can make of themselves.

IN ONE YEAR…I’ve been brought to blood, sweat and tears; stepped back and second-guessed myself; came back with the intent of turning my nose up at adversity; let life kick my ass a few times; questioned myself a thousand times; and concluded that if I had 5o chances to take a different path, I’d choose this one over and over again…every…single…time.

IN ONE YEAR…I discovered another world: one comprised of readers who fill one’s life with love, support, encouragement and wonder. You email, text and tweet me, letting me know how you relate; I, in return, grow secure in our virtual relationship as we mirror one another. We face similar troubles; we marvel at what’s good in this world; we laugh at the foolywang business that makes us shake our heads; and we go deep into the things that are not often easy to say, but which need to be said because we believe in change and evolution.

Happy 1st Birthday, WhoIsArlette!

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Here’s to many more findings of self, people, locations, events, topics to dissect in an uproar and opportunities to rise higher, go further, dig deeper and dance faster.

And thank you, dear readers, for what you’ve given me: a sanctuary where I know I’m in good company.

Now, let’s do like Prince and GO CRAAAAZYYYY!

Avec amour,

- A

Photo Credit: W. Orellana

January

26

Is anybody out there?


When I was younger, surprises often felt to me like well-meaning intentions wrapped in the shadow of something bound to go horribly wrong. This thinking mostly stemmed from having people repeatedly build my hopes up only to pull the rug from under me. If secret wishes happened to be fulfilled, I’d welcome them with great cynicism, describing it as a complete fluke that the universe would “right” with a Fedexed “Return to Sender” label. But I’ve since learned to “rid” myself of the impulse to automatically imagine dark clouds overhead by trusting my instincts, working hard, and choosing to look inward and to God for answers, which has lessened the pain of wanting too much too quickly or having unrealistic expectations of others.

But recently, while pestering folks on my social media timelines with my 2014 mantra (#epicyear), I received an alluring offer from a friend via Facebook: that of becoming the fashion and lifestyle columnist for a new French radio show due to launch next weekend on UNIQUE FM 94.5, the Nation Capital’s sole Franco-Ontarian station (Me: looking left to right; turning the finger on myself, with raised eyebrows shaped into MOI?!?!). This was certainly an unexpected surprise, but what surprised me most was my reaction: instead of being my usual, overanalyzing self who looks for a well-constructed argument as to why this would or wouldn’t be a good idea, I replied with a resounding YES in 2.5 seconds!

Now, some of you may be wondering why this would even be up for debate at all when in the world of blogging and branding, the opportunity to connect with a broader audience is the holy grail of “starting from the bottom now we’re here”. Simply put: I feared it would bring back the feeling of uneasiness that once inhabited my heart and led me to believe that the jig was bound to be up before I’d even have the chance to do anything of significance. I feel confident in my abilities as a writer and enjoy the synergy of words and engagement, but RADIO?!?! IN FRENCH, no less!? (nowadays, speaking my mother tongue feels more like morse code than beautiful, free-flowing prose). But that gut feeling, that instinct that prompted me to blurt out “yes” kicked into high gear and reminded of the following: 

“Without risk, there is no reward.”

It’s that attitude that has led me to the path I’m on now, which is far more rewarding and enlightening than anything I’ve ever considered to be the bees’ knees in my younger life. It’s that attitude that has coaxed me into looking at the bigger picture and decide whether I prefer to be of those who look at others making things happen, or be of those who redefine their lives and possibly, the game. And although I do not pretend to be the voice of a generation (like self-absorbed aspiring writer Hannah Horvath of GIRLS fame), I hope to be a part of a growing class of movers and shakers within my community for who doing something, ANYTHING, is a much better risk to take than being idle and wondering what might be.

Microphone check, 1, 2, 1, 2!

The challenge petrifies me, but in the same token, it also thrills me. The team I get to be a part of blows my mind — the sheer talent, enthusiasm, knowledge and camaraderie that emanates from the group is more than I could have ever hoped for. There is no room for ego as this is a first for the majority of us — this is diving into the unknown at its finest, friends. We’re all going in with eyes wide open and minds tuned in to the frequency of change. We may succeed brilliantly or fail miserably, but none of us will go to our graves wondering “what if?” — the time for anyone of us to go out and make things happen is NOW.

So, this is what this girl will be up to soon, apart from the blog and other projects: bringing listeners the best in fashion, events, local happenings and lifestyle. Follow me on Twitter @WhoIsArlette to get the details on the inaugural show and upcoming tapings.

I hope you will engage with us, but most of all, I hope you will engage with life.

Avec amour,

- A

Source: The Carrot Chronicle

January

17

“And then I kissed him…” – Part II


Once upon a time, a girl traveled to a city she hardly knew to surprise a boy, future unknown, expectations nestled away in the cove of hope. Fast forward to today and said boy and girl are still smitten with each other, having defied the odds of long distance relationships. Now happily married, they’ve since returned to where it all began: the Bond Place Hotel.

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“And then I kissed him…” – Part II

“You were not kidding…” he said when our lips parted. I smiled. “I hardly am about these things.”

We stared at each other for a few minutes in silence, our eyes studying each others’ faces and our fingers laced.

“Are you hungry?” he asked, kissing me lightly. I nodded – famished seemed a more suitable adjective. “I’ll show you my city,” he continued, leading me out the door. The night seemed to stretch indefinitely, as if in cahoots with this connection now in full swing. As we rode around the city, passing several Toronto landmarks, stopping by hole-in-the-wall comfort food spots where we indulged in greasy, Chinese fare, talking and laughing like words were on the verge of being extinct, and walking the maddening streets, I felt in that moment that anything, at any time, can happen when the heart leads.

***

This past November, Bond Place Hotel graciously hosted the hubs and I during a two-night stay while I was in Toronto attending the Spark Sessions blogger conference. The experience was a complete 180 from the one I experienced almost 8 years ago: was this the same place that once welcomed guests into cardboard box accommodations, offered less-than-stellar amenities and was outfitted in a Motel Bates decor with outmoded heat systems that coughed up air phlegm? Apparently, quite like my own relationship, it has since blossomed into something of substance and thoughtfulness.

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The first time I stayed at the hotel, I essentially settled on it for the same reason that tops many a traveler’s list: location. But being a bit of a “travel snob” for whom reasonably-priced and modern digs, as well as perks aplenty make up the Mercedes-Benz of a well-rounded travel experience, I had already relegated my Bond Place Hotel visit to a one-time affair…until I stumbled across its revamped website last fall. At last, both proximity and style can be had at the centrally-located hotel and the fact that it’s only a stone’s throw away from the action of Dundas Square, the Eaton Centre and Queen and Yonge streets only make it this much better. Like the ugly duckling that goes away to boarding school and returns transformed and oozing with charm, the renovated Bond Place Hotel hits all the right notes of a dignified tourism institution while remaining unassuming.

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Built in 1976, the 280-room, 18-floor institution underwent a full facelift  in 2011. It now boasts multiple spaces that include a grand lounge of white leather couches on the B1 level where travelers can enjoy complimentary water, tea and coffee beautifully laid out on an island that sits below an impressive wired brass chandelier. The second floor offers a quaint fitness room that meets its no-nonsense mandate of providing guests with a space to take in a quick workout session. On the main floor resides a slick front desk backed up by a lit backdrop that turns up the brightness factor of a closely-matched Tiffany-blue color. Around the corner, the once unattractive seating lounge where I brazenly walked up to the Mr. and planted a kiss on those lips, has since shed its unattractive, brownish  shell to reveal a space bathed in  fiery red and white, complete with dark wooden tables and stools that serve as a convenient spot for workaholic worms or chatty types, the added incentive of free Wi-Fi a welcomed perk.

THE HONEYMOON SUITE

We arrived late on a Friday night and were greeted with a smile by the front desk manager, who nearly had me die of glee with the VIP welcome: “Oh yes! Mrs. Orellana of WhoIsArlette! We are happy to have you!” Cynicism, be damned! We were informed that we would get to experience two types of rooms during our two-day stay, which is certainly a great way to “test drive” a hotel’s various accommodations.  The first perks soon materialized from behind the counter: a complimentary parking voucher for safe underground parking across the street and which provides in-and-out privileges; complimentary in-room Wi-Fi access codes to stay connected to all devices at all times; and last but certainly not least, room keys to our Stairway To Heaven Honeymoon Suite on the hotel’s top floor!

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Nothing could have prepared us for what was ahead: upon entering the suite, we immediately noticed a bottle of red wine and a plate of brownies and artisanally cut-up fruit seating on a coffee table. “Oh my God! Is this for real?” I heard hubby ask, as he dropped our bags and proceeded to Instagram the goodies. I looked down at the hotel’s accompanying printed note and sat down in disbelief: Welcome to the Bond Place Hotel. Enjoy a special little treat on us!!! Have a wonderful evening!

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A dual state-of-the-art fireplace installation served as the perfect divider between the living room and the bedroom, its fire crackling softly. Outside, the lights of Dundas Square shun brightly among the giant billboards. We circled the suite like entranced tourists, taking the Lord’s Name in vain a thousand times along the way. “I’m calling dibs on this bathroom!” I yelled to the hubs: with a sink and the common women-centric amenities readily available to make my morning routine a snap, I baptized the space my “get-ready” station. Next door to it sat the master bathroom suite, equipped with a spacious stand-alone glass shower, which in my world, is the equivalent of Nirvana. But a simple spin in the other direction rapidly unveiled the bathroom’s real crown jewel: a soaker tub! Hubby whistled.

I plunked down on the crisp, white sheets pulled wrinkle-free perfection – counting sheep wouldn’t be required tonight.  I dimmed the lights by my bedside and breathed deep: “Can we move in?” I asked, half-jokingly.

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Following a dinner at one of the very first restaurants the hubs took me to the weekend of our first encounter, we retreated back to the hotel in the wee hours of the morning and were astounded to find our suite decked out in lighted candles, with a tapestry of rose petals leading the way to the bed! As we followed the flickering glow to the master bathroom, we cheered coming upon a steaming hot bubble bath with additional rose petals. If that weekend had been the kind of escape meant to “revive” a dying relationship, this sort of orchestrated attention to detail would certainly turn things around!? My devotion to showers dwindled a bit in that moment.

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THE BUSINESS QUEEN ROOM

Although I had to depart the hotel early on the Saturday morning to head to the conference, I felt elated that commuting to the venue likened itself to child’s play — Bond Place Hotel being in the heart of everything, with easy access to the subway and street cars, is what gives it that added edge.  The return to the hotel found me checking into a separate room, this time as a Business Queen Room, which was conveniently located next door to our honeymoon suite.

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The Business Queen Room provided the necessary basics of a temporary home away from home:  quaint, cozy and clean, it delivered on the premise that a business traveler just needs a place to comfortably rest their head after a long day of negotiations and goings-on. And although one would think that being housed in a room half the size of the Honeymoon Suite would make for a disappointing experience, but I took no ill will to the downgrade, especially given the fantastic view of Dundas Square outside our door that inspired concrete jungle dreams. I marveled at the action of people and vehicles reduced to miniature size down below under a bright night and flashing lights; a mini The Coveteur-inspired shoot followed as I placed my go-to heels against the window with my sparkly earrings and proceeded to snap away.

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Sunday came like the wind and I begrudgingly rose from our comfortable bed before falling back for several more minutes, pulling the comforter up to my neck. With the second and last day of the conference soon to begin, I coaxed hubby into getting up with me to grab breakfast downstairs at the hotel’s restaurant, the PomAnar Grill & Juicery. Savory food is my chosen breakfast of choice, which equalled one of their insanely affordable plates of eggs with all the fixings. Staying put for this option proved the right way to go and before the temptation to return to our room overwhelmed me, I stepped out into the fresh morning air to catch my big city ride.

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With Valentine’s Day around corner, a weekend getaway remains a legit gift that keeps on giving for both couples and singles, a fact not lost on Bond Place Hotel: the hotel plans to unveil two special packages for the holiday de l’amour this weekend that will satisfy both joined-at-the-hip lovers and singles who love to mingle.

Special thanks go out to Mr. Chad Denie for the opportunity to experience the new and improved Bond Place Hotel, and to the amazing staff (Crystal, Zia, Paul, Cherina and Co.) for going above and beyond in ensuring our comfort and happiness.

Avec amour,

- A

Photo credit: W. Orellana

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