September 25, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
6 Comments

Packing for a social media conference with Dress Mavens (sponsored post)

So you’ve done it.

You bought a ticket, booked your hotel and maybe even found a random roommate (or three) and you’re inching closer to attending a social media conference.

But, what to wear? What to pack? What to bring to the conference each day? Among about a zillion other things that are running through your brain right about now, these are just a few. I know. I’ve been there.

BlissDom Canada 2014 marks my fourth social media conference, and I remember when attending my first  that my biggest concern was packing. Packing enough. Packing right.

The good news is that all of the other newbies are feeling exactly the same way (promise), and none of the veterans will judge you. Seriously.

OK, here’s what you need to pack for your next social media conference:

1. An awesome dress in which you feel like the hot mama you are.

Chances are there’ll be at least one evening function that will require a bit of a dressier look that what you’ve got going during the day. And although most of these social media conferences are very much come-as-you-are, it feels good to get all womanly and dress up. After all, for some of you, this is the first time you’ve been away from your kids for a whole day and/or night (and/or weekend!). And, dammit! You deserve to look pretty. Feel pretty. Act pretty. Be pretty. Just DO pretty. You want something that feels good on. If it don’t fit, don’t wear it. This isn’t the time to stuff yourself into a dress like a sausage. Remember: there’s lots of food to consume at these things.

I feel so blessed to have been given a custom-made dress experience from Dress Mavens for BlissDom. After I finished looking at all of the different dress styles, I picked four that I thought would do my shapely shape justice. Then, I posted this image on my personal Facebook page, asking my friends to help me choose:

Dress Mavens

With overwhelming popularity, Nancy won. And many suggested I go for the bold red the model’s wearing, too. So I did. The measurement process was fairly straightforward, but if you’ve never measured yourself before, you’ll probably be as concerned as I was that you weren’t measuring the right spots. The good news is (a) my dress arrived and fit almost perfectly, and (b) the smart cookies over at Dress Mavens will soon be posting how-to-measure videos.

So why only almost perfect? Well, it seems my inner vixen wanted to make a rather daring appearance and measured the dip in the V-neck on that there Nancy dress just a wee bit too low. As in, you-can-basically-see-my-nipple low. (Don’t look THAT hard when you see me in it, OK?) Thanks to Dress Mavens’ “Delight Guarantee,” I get a $35 credit to use with my local tailor who will fix it all up so I’m not Elaine in that episode of Seinfeld when she sends out all those Hannukah cards with her nip out. No one needs to see that. I breastfed for 44 cumulative months; it ain’t pretty down there these days.

Other than that, the fit is spectacular. It hugs me in all the right places and it’s so nice to have a dress that isn’t too long in the torso. I have one of those awkard bodies that is all out of proportion. I’m only about 5’7″, but I have a 34-inch inseam! If my body was as long as my legs, I’d basically be a supermodel. Alas, I go from boobs to waist without so much as an inch or so between them. With a bespoke dress, it doesn’t matter. My freaky bits are all worked out.

So, how did the dress turn out? You be the judge!

Dress Mavens Nancy

If you’re coming to BlissDom this year, you’ll get to meet the team behind Dress Mavens and check out all of the stunning styles and fabrics available for your own bespoke number. Dress Mavens is a first-time BlissDom Canada sponsor and you’re gonna fall in love with them. And their dresses that fit you no matter what size or shape you are. Be sure to visit the booth and chat about the kind of frock that YOUR body would rock. Because feeling beautiful is important! Already have a Dress Mavens piece? Share it on Instagram with the #dressmavensgiveback hashtag, and a $1 donation (per photo) will go to the Quang Nam Orphans and Handicapped Children Center in Vietnam. Beautiful dresses really can do beautiful things.

2. A smartphone that you know inside and out.

I made the mistake last year of taking a brand new Moto X to BlissDom that I had never operated. But I was no smartphone newb, so I figured I’d be fine. But I had also never used Android until then, and — boy — was it a mistake to take a foreign device with me when there was so much Tweeting, Facebooking and online networking to be done. The conference sessions move fast on Twitter and if you want your take on the content heard (and shared) you need to be really comfortable with your device. Now is not the time for a tester! I’m taking a Moto X again this year, but I know the phone well and I’m all over Android these days. Especially since my kids have (again) put my iPhone somewhere “safe.”

3. External smartphone batteries.

These are a God-send and a must-have when you need your phone to last from breakfast until well after dark. If you don’t want to fork out upwards of $80 for the Mophie-style battery packs that attach right to your smartphone, you can spend a fraction of that and get something like the RAVpower Luster external battery. I love these little things. Yeah, they’re a bit cumbersome if you’re trying to carry a discreet purse to go with your LBD, but to be able to recharge your phone on-the-go is crucial  during these conferences. You very well might find yourself near a plug or a sponsor charging station, but I can pretty much guarantee that it won’t be enough to make it from day to night.

4. Comfortable shoes.

I don’t care how superbly you walk in heels. I don’t care if you’re Tyra-freaking-Banks, all runway-style. If you can last in heels from 8 a.m. until midnight, you’re either a liar or a shoe goddess with magical feet. You may even be a unicorn. I don’t know. What I do know is that if you’re human, you need a pair of flats for some portion of your conference day. My go-to flats are ALWAYS Tieks. Stylish, comfortable and convenient. I have three pairs (fuchsia, lemon and sandsnake) and they’re unmatched in terms of fit and comfort by any other flat I’ve ever worn. They’re the perfect shoes for conferences because they fold up into a teeny-tiny little bag that can fit into any-sized day bag if you do want to wear heels during certain parts of the conference (like meeting with sponsors).

5. Business cards.

Don’t leave home without them! You don’t need to spend a lot of money on business cards, but they shouldn’t be the kind you print at home unless you have a STELLAR printer and really high-quality cardstock. Be sure to include the most basic information (first name, website address, email address) and add the bonus information if you’re comfortable (surname, phone number, social channels, criminal record…I’m joking…don’t include that). I personally didn’t want my surname or phone number on my cards because sometimes I hand out cards to random parents when I’m out and about, and I prefer to communicate via email when it comes to my blog. If you can afford the added touch of hiring a graphic designer to create a nice layout for your business cards, go for it. And definitely steal Sheri’s “conference hack” of putting your cards and the ones you receive in your conference lanyard!

6. Comforts of home.

It’s not easy leaving home (even though an hour after arriving you’ll be doing your Happy Dance), so bring a little bit of home with you. A favourite family photo you can place on your bedside table; the juicer you just can’t live without; your blankie. It’ll put you at ease, and hopefully that’s enough to help you walk into a room filled with 4oo strangers and mingle. I made a video about my kids as part of a BlissDom project called #ThisIsBliss, and when I’m missing my little ones, I’m going to watch it.

7. Easy-to-wear but stylish clothes for day time.

You probably don’t want to wear yoga pants to a conference, but you do want clothes that feel just as comfy. Just remember that at the end of the day, although conferences like BlissDom feel like a weekend away with the girls, they’re business trips. You should be there with a business agenda. And for that, you need to look the part. Business suit not required, but a nice pair of pants (that will allow you to gain a few pounds in a few days thanks to all of the amazing parties) and a top that says “You want to work with me!” are perfect. And pack at least one extra outfit, just in case you hate half of what you brought by the time you unpack. Oh, and if your hotel has a pool (like the one at the Delta Meadowvale where BlissDom is held), don’t forget your swimsuit!

8. A fake-it-’til-you-make-it smile.

Your brain is a pretty amazing thing. If you smile for 15 seconds straight, you trick your brain into believing you’re happy. So if you’re not usually a happy-go-lucky person, spend 15 seconds forcing yourself to smile before you enter a room. I’m not suggesting that you keep a faux smile plastered on your face all night, especially if that’s not your natural state of being; but I am suggesting that it’s easier to seem approachable and have the confidence to meet new people when you’re in your happy place.

9. Anything that boosts your confidence.

What gives you that special ooomph you need when you walk into a room? Is it bold lipstick, a quick pep talk with a friend, those killer heels that make you stand out above the crowd? (Or you know, a made-to-measure dress…cough…see point No. 1.) Figure out what makes you feel really good about yourself and WORK IT. If belting out Les Mis tunes in a hot shower’s your thing, and you come out feeling alive and ready to take on the world, do it. Do whatever you need to do to be your bravest YOU. Sure, some people don’t have any trouble making new friends, talking up brands or being the life of the party. But if that’s not you, figure out what’s going to make you the most comfortable in these kinds of situations you’ll face during a social media conference, because comfortable often equals confidence.

10. Twitter.

Yeah, yeah…you can’t exactly “pack” Twitter, but semantics aside… I was recently at a Main St. Creative event for bloggers and met someone who isn’t on Twitter. Look, do I love it as much as Facebook or Instagram? I do not. But when you have a business, especially a business that’s a blog, you really need to be on Twitter. And a lot of these social media conferences happen as much on Twitter as they do in real life, so being part of the conversation that’s happening online is really just as important as the ones happening offline. You don’t need to be a Twitter expert, or understand what the hell a hashtag is or does, but you should snap up the handle that makes sense for your brand and just start engaging.

That’s it. Now you’re ready to take on any conference. Go have fun out there. (Just don’t forget the perfect dress. Wink, wink.)

 

DISCLAIMER: Dress Mavens compensated me for this post, but all of the love I’ve thrown their way is genuine. I really had a wonderful experience ordering a custom-made dress from this company and can’t wait to show it off at BlissDom! Motorola Canada is a client of the firm for whom I work; I write about products we represent of my own free will.

 

September 22, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
1 Comment

#FamilyTravelCA chat: Trafalgar Family Experiences

Trafalgar Family Experiences Twitter PartyI’ve always loved to travel, and this year we’ve managed to take our kids to some pretty exciting destinations. Hopefully, I’m passing along the travel bug to them, too. There’s nothing like creating family memories through travel.

But what kind of travel planner are you?

The way I see it, there are two distinct types of travellers: those who like to plan every trip from beginning to end with a level of minutia that would make the Secret Service look sloppy; and those who like to entrust their vacation co-ordination to professionals so they can sit back, relax and simply pack for the itinerary they’re given.

If you fall into the latter category, you’re going to love learning more about Trafalgar’s Family Experiences. From jungle treks through Costa Rica to island-hopping in Greece to living it up on a dude ranch, Trafalgar’s carefully planned travel experiences offer hands-off planning for the “big stuff” with built-in flexibility so you don’t have to eat, sleep and play with everyone who’s taking the same guided vacation 24/7.

There were two things that caught my eye when I was checking out Trafalgar’s website: first, you’re provided with the services of a professional travel director throughout your journey. And second, all hotel service charges and tips, baggage handling fees and local taxes included. That last part is something that always trips me up when I’m budgeting. There are other perks, too, like VIP entry to many of the sights; handpicked accommodations that are always four or five stars; and breakfast provided for every day of your trip (along with a few lunches and dinners, too!).

Want to learn more and have a chance to win some great prizes? OK, here’s what you need to know:

  • Date: Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014
  • Time: 9 p.m. EST
  • Prizing is open to Canadians only
  • You must RSVP using the linky below and follow @TrafalgarCanada to be eligible to win



September 18, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
0 comments

Eco-Kids Eco-Finger Paint and Eco-Glue (mini-review)

Eco-Kids Eco-finger PaintTHE PRODUCTS

Eco-Kids Eco-Paint and Eco-Glue, $24 (set of five colours) and $6, respectively.

THE GOOD

Both products use totally natural ingredients, removing any concerns about accidental poisoning. For example, the Eco-Glue contains rice flour, water, sugar, citric acid, corn starch, potassium sorbate and rosemary oil; while the paints get their colour from ingredients like carrots, spinach, red grapeseed, purple sweet potato and gardenias.

Every product is made by hand and part of a family-owned business.

The paint is quite concentrated, so you get a lot once you mix it with water (1:1, powder to water). We tend to make smaller batches because it thickens a bit over time.

The glue works really well, and dries clear.

THE GAFFE

The paint hues are pretty muted. You won’t get vibrant reds, blues or yellows with Eco-Kids’ all-natural paints. As they dry, they get more and more toned down so you’re left with an almost pastel look. However, this doesn’t bother my kids and I’m happy to let go of colour saturation if it means my kids can lick their fingers after they’re done painting. Not that they do, but I think you know what I mean.

eco-glueI personally prefer glue in sticks or tubes, which makes for a mess-free application. But Miss Q has other ideas and just loves to glue anytime, anywhere with anything. She’s content.

THE GEARS

4/5 for both

 

September 16, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
1 Comment

Splurge or save? #instaGLAM gorgeous with COVERGIRL and Katy Perry

It’s no secret that I can be a bit of a brand snob. I like nice things, and I usually find that you get what you pay for.

And while a lot of my skin care and makeup is pretty high-end, I continue to give COVERGIRL products glowing reviews. Because it consistently blows me away.

I know it’s hard to believe that a drugstore-level makeup line has wow-worthy products, but this girl wouldn’t lie to you. I think we’ve established that by now.

One of my #InstaGLAM selfies on concert night.

One of my #instaGLAM selfies on concert night that I posted on Instagram. (Even though I was far from GLAM having just raced from my home office to get on the train to make it downtown in time.)

I recently got to see the awesome Katy Perry in concert on her PRISMATIC World Tour (thanks to its COVERGIRL sponsorship), and her makeup was stunning. So I wanted to share some of the products that she uses in concert and in her videos to prove that you don’t have to spend a lot to look glam.

And this got me thinking: if I only bought COVERGIRL makeup, how much would I save? What could I buy with all that newly found cash?

Here’s what I’ve been buying and spending per product (and I know I’m not alone here, ladies):

  • Primer from Giorgio Armani = $75
  • Foundation from Giorgio Armani = $75
  • Concealer from YSL = $50
  • Blush from MAC = $22
  • Highlighter from MAC = $32
  • Eyeshadow from MAC = $16
  • Eyeliner from MAC = $16
  • Lip gloss from NARS = $35
  • Lipstick from Givenchy = $38
  • Mascara. OK, I don’t wear mascara because I have eyelash extensions (that, realistically, I’m just never, ever getting rid of and I warn you that they’re so hugely addictive that not even the annual amount I spend on them will stop me), so I’m removing mascara from my comparison list
  • GRAND TOTAL = $359 (remember: that’s for one product only in each category…holy crap)

And if I replaced it all with COVERGIRL makeup, which frankly would be pretty easy to do since I really do like just about everything I’ve tried:

Some things I could do/buy with the $272 I’d save:

  • A small but lovely piece of sterling silver jewelry from Tiffany & Co.
  • Six to seven blow-outs (including tax and tip!)
  • A couple’s massage
  • A pair of designer jeans
  • Shoes and boots for my kids for an entire year
  • I think you see where this is headed…

A few notes about some of these COVERGIRL products:

The new COVERGIRL + Olay Facelift Effect foundation is awesome. Like, seriously awesome. I’ve been using it every day since it arrived and although I’m not sure I feel like it’s “firming” my skin, I do find that the coverage is so naturally good that my skin appears more flawless and younger.

COVERGIRL’s Bombshell ShineShadow by LashBlast is marketed as a highlighter for your eyes, or to give an extra bit of POW overtop of your eyeshadow, but it can absolutely be repurposed and used on your cheekbones and the little “V” on your top lip (your Cupid’s bow) as well. Just be warned: a little goes a LONG way.

The Flamed Out Shadow Pot colours are not as pigment-rich as MAC eyeshadows. If you’re used to deeply pigmented colour in one swipe, you may find that you need two or three swipes to reach that same intensity.

I really need to tell you about the new LiquilineBlast Eyeliner. I’m in love with it. I have used eyeliners that cost $2 and eyeliners that cost $20, and none go on as smoothly and easily as this. Now, if you’re looking for a really sharp, precise line, this isn’t your eyeliner; it’s definitely got a much more silky, smoky effect, especially coupled with the smudger on the opposite end of the eyeliner pencil. (Scroll to the end for a smoky eye how-to!)

The next time you want to wear lipstick but have a long night of wine ahead of you, try the LipPerfection Lipcolour. IT WILL NOT COME OFF! In fact, it may still be on the next morning. This is both a blessing and a curse. And the colours are very “true.” By that, I mean that the colour on the end of the stick (on the outside) actually ends up looking like the colour in the tube. Want to know which #instaGLAM shades Katy Perry’s wearing on tour? Check out Flame, Hot, Bombshell and Yummy (all of which I love to wear since I’m not afraid to rock a strong, bold lip):

lips

Katy also uses LiquilineBlast Eyeliner in Black FireFlamed Out Shadow Pot in Molten Black and Bombshell ShineShadow in Ice Queen, which are the only three products you need to create a smokey eye like this:

How to create a smoky eye

BEFORE & AFTER HOW TO: Use a flat eyeshadow brush and pat on a couple of swipes of the Shadow Pot eyeshadow, then blend it with a blending brush across your entire lid and up into and slightly above the crease. Take the tiniest bit of ShineShadow on your finger and use it as highlighter on your brow bone, then a bit more goes into the inner corner of your eye and finally over the first third (or so) of your inner lid, right overtop of the shadow. This part of the shadow will now be a more glittery, metallic grey. Using the flat brush again, deeply imprint the crease in your eyelid with the eyeshadow so it’s nearly black; using a blending brush, work it into your crease evenly but keep it as dark as possible. Use the LiquilineBlast eyeliner to line the top and bottom of your eye (including the “inside”!) and flip it over to smudge it as little or as much as you like to achieve the smoky effect you like best. If you don’t have lash extensions like me, be sure to finish it off with mascara – lots of it!

 Need other makeup product recos to SAVE instead of SPLURGE? Just ask me.

 

DISCLAIMER: I am a P&Gmom. As part of my affiliation with this group, I receive products and special access to P&G events and opportunities. The opinions on this blog are my own. 

September 15, 2014
by Mommy Gearest
0 comments

KURIOS by Cirque du Soleil: a Cabinet of Curiosities

The show: KURIOS (Cirque du Soleil)

When it’s on: Now through October 26, 2014, in Toronto (down at The Port Lands) and then it’s on to San Francisco starting November 14, 2014; then in 2015 it goes to Seattle, Calgary and Denver. Buy tickets here.

What it’s about: If you’ve never seen a Cirque show, you need to know going in that the stories are about everything and nothing and go here to there and back again all in an instant. The official word on KURIOS is this: “In his larger-than-life curio cabinet, the Seeker is convinced that there exists a hidden, invisible world – a place where the craziest ideas and the grandest dreams lie waiting. A collection of otherworldly characters suddenly step into his makeshift mechanical world… and turn [it] upside down with a touch of poetry and humor in an attempt to ignite the Seeker’s imagination.”

You’ll find that the story line is simply a loose veil, under which you’ll discover the phantasmagoria that is Cirque du Soleil. (Scroll all the way to the end for photos!) With the most fantastical creatures and characters, dreamed up by the wildest imaginations. With costumes and makeup that in and of themselves are standing ovation-worthy. All of the usual elements are present: beautifully sung, ethereal music; contortionists; trapeze artists; bodies so perfect and toned that you can only look at them in awe and appreciation; quirky characters that will steal your heart; and a set that helps bring this otherworldly brilliance to life.

KURIOS starts the minute you walk into the Grand Chapiteau area adjacent to the parking lot. Not even through the gates, you’ll be wowed by characters scaling the roof of the Big Top, and probably stopped by photographers (in full costume). There’s music playing and gives the illusion of lineups moving at the speed of light, because you’re already engrossed in performance. Past the ticket-taker, you can buy $8 popcorn and $5 water bottles, check out your photos or have more taken on a green screen, or simply move directly into the theatre. We took our seats at about 4:05 p.m. and there was already action on the stage, even though the show wasn’t slated to begin until 4:30 p.m. When you have small children with you, this is a God-send. Time slipped by and the closer it got to showtime, the more action started to happen on stage, with lighting crew members (also in costume and in character) scaling the walls to get up to their posts. Everything done with precision and perfection.

You really only know the “real” show is starting because the lights go down. And what a show it is. Time ticks slowly on a big clock centre stage, and the bulk of the show takes place in what’s represented as a mere minute. We’re introduced to a cast of characters who offer up the most delightful treats for the senses. And that’s one thing that I love about Cirque shows: it doesn’t matter where you look, there’s always something happening. However, since this is a temporary theatre with non-permanent seating, it’s a bit cramped. The seats are small and close together and not “stadium-style” like you may be used to if you’ve seen only permanent shows, like those in Las Vegas or Orlando. Unless our kids sat on our laps, they weren’t able to see anything happening on-stage. And that meant the poor people behind us had an obstructed view. So if you’re taking small children (and you should), get front-row seats or sit much higher up in the back.

Although many Cirque shows have a lot going on up high, this one actually has a lot happening right on the stage. It’s not as “elevated” as you might be used to. So you really do need to have a full view of the stage floor to see 100 per cent of all the glorious things going on. I had someone who can only be described as a WNBA player sitting in front of me and I had to careen right and left, dodging her shoulders to give Miss Q the best view. Which meant I missed a few things myself. That’s my only complaint – the seating. The rest? Pure, must-see magic.

What Miss Q (age 3.5) said: “The guys on the trampoline looked very funny; I want to do that when I’m bigger!”

What The K Man (age 6) said: “That was one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen! My favourite part was the invisible lion.”

The verdict? Take the kids if you can swing it financially, or plan it as a fun date night if two tickets reach your max budget. Either way, GO!

  • The invisible circus

    Our kids thought this was just amazing. And it was...nothing. No, really. This was the invisible circus, where the "narrator" character showed off various invisible animals riding unicycles, jumping through flaming hoops of fire and diving into barrels of water. There are a lot of curtain-openings, makeshift splashes and well-timed sound effects. This proves that the magic of make believe is alive and well in my children's minds. 

    The moment that the invisible lion escaped its cage and ran into the audience (complete with sound that travelled perfectly through the stands) was thrilling for The K Man but slightly terrifying for Miss Q. But anytime someone has asked either of them about KURIOS, this is the part they always talk about.

  • Contortionists

    Sitting upon this massive, mechanical hand were four of the bendiest girls you've ever seen. If you've seen contortion before, you won't be surprised by their flexibility or stunning but mind-boggling movement. If this is your first time, be prepared to be amazed and grossed out all at the same time. It's truly amazing to watch the human body create the kind of shapes possible only with artists like these.

  • The Courroies

    Seemingly Siamese twins at the beginning of KURIOS, these two Adonis replicas "separate" for a spectacular section of the show. They fly through the air hanging on, literally, by a string, their bodies twisting and moving beautifully in, over, around (and even through!) each other.

  • The Russian Duo

    This is right at the top of my favourites list out of every component that makes up KURIOS. That man there, which I am affectionately likening to a tank, stands behind a belt (reminiscent of a WWF championship belt without all the gold plating) and uses only his hands and arms as a trapeze bar for his partner. 

    It is INCREDIBLE. His strength and the trust between them to complete her feats of gymnastic awesomeness is jaw-droppingly phenomenal.

  • The biggest trampoline you've ever seen

    This part had Miss Q asking to go back to Club Med Punta Cana to try the Circus School again! She wasn't the only one ooohing and ahhhing as grown men flew through the air like butterflies, reaching remarkable heights. One got so high he was able to latch on to that ladder way up there!

  • Meet Mini Lili

    Picture this character coming down from the sky on a rope, wandering around as part of the KURIOS vernacular and then, in a later scene, a little old lady pops out of his "belly." It's strange and wonderful and mysterious and perfectly Cirque. Mini Lili is probably a little person by definition but she is, by far, the littlest and oldest little person I have ever seen with my own two eyes. She couldn't have been more than 2.5 feet tall (seriously!), and had a voice so unique I couldn't do it justice by comparing it to Alvin and the Chipmunks. But you get the idea.

    She shows up again and again throughout the show, rowing a boat, talking on the phone, generally just being wonderfully odd.

  • As if balancing on the stage wasn't enough...

    ...he had to take his balancing act up high, on a swing! Although he had a bit of a misstep on his cylindrical setup on the main stage, he managed to keep the teeter from tottering when he was swinging to and fro 30 feet up. Just wow.

  • Upside-down world

    This was so cool! Picture a dinner party around a table, and the chandelier needs a fixin'. Obviously, you'd stack 47 chairs on top of each other to reach it, climbing in such a way that you won Core of the Year awards for your presentation. Then, imagine the same scene happening upside-down at the top of the tent.

    Yes! Performers were seated at an upside-down table with upside-down wine and food and a carbon copy of the entire dinner party, strung from the "ceiling," two performers climbing and stacking chairs on their way to the same chandelier. It was spellbinding!

    (All photos courtesy of Cirque du Soleil.)