Thursday, September 29, 2011

Piano Man

I think everybody has a list of concerts in their mind - you know, the bands or performers that you just HAVE to see live before you die (or in the case of many bands that I love, before THEY die). I am no different, and I recently was lucky enough to be able to cross one of mine off my list!

On September 15th, my mom, sister and I drove to Prince Edward Island to see...


He actually played a concert in my home city of Halifax not that long ago, but unfortunately we were unable to get tickets. We were really disappointed that time and figured that was that. So, when I heard that he would be coming back to Atlantic Canada, there was no WAY we were NOT going to miss out again. 

Unfortunately, we almost didn't go at all! We endured quite the SAGA of ticket ordering: Back in July, both my mom and I got on the computer and the phone as soon as the tickets went on sale, but neither of us could get through. The system was SO frustrating because you would refresh and refresh, finally get in to the ordering page only to be promptly kicked off. Long story short, neither of us got through and, again, we thought that was that.

Then a couple of weeks later, a 2nd Summerside show was announced and we were elated to have a 2nd chance, so we did the same thing all over again, only this time my boyfriend also went online to see if he could get tickets for us. After an hour of trying - SUCCESS! He finally got into the system and was able to order 3 tickets for us. We couldn't believe our luck and started to make plans for a hotel room and such.

So, a couple of weeks before the concert, we were getting antsy because we had yet to receive our tickets in the mail. My boyfriend decided to call the box office to double-check on our order. Well, it's a good thing he did because he found out that they actually had NO tickets for us! They informed us that their online system had experienced a "glitch" wherein hundreds of incorrect ticket confirmations were sent to people that did not actually have tickets. My boyfriend got an email confirmation and his credit card was charged and everything. The box office informed him that, to deal with the problem, they had reversed the charges for all the people affected by the glitch and that basically was their way of informing people...

*crickets chirping*

Yeah, I know. The worst thing is, we stumbled upon an article in a PEI newspaper that discussed the issue and actually quoted a gentleman that DID get a phone call from the venue telling him about the problem! So, obviously this place had called SOME people but not all. Obviously not the best way to deal with a major customer service issue!

What. A. Nightmare. 

An angry phone call to the manager later and we ended up grabbing some tickets that the promoter had apparently just released the day before or something. And the best part is, once we arrived we realized our seats were even closer to the stage than the original "fake" tickets we had! So, it all turned out for the best, but it was a really annoying experience and a huge lesson learned - take it from me, kids: ALWAYS check on your tickets if you order them online!
Anyway, the important thing is we got there.

What was great about the show was it's simplicity - it was literally just Elton and the piano, with some lighting. There was no pyrotechnics or crazy outfits or back-up singers/dancers - no elaborate production. This was so refreshing and made the show feel very intimate - more like being in a small club or lounge. 

He played all my favourites (of course), and played some amazingly complicated piano riffs that blew my mind! His voice definitely sounds deeper and a little more raw now than it used to, but still great.

He played for 2.5 hours NON-STOP! Aside from taking maybe 2-3 breaks to say a couple of words, he never stopped playing or singing. I was amazed at his energy!

Thank you, Rocketman, for helping me cross a very big "to-do" off my life list!

Monday, September 26, 2011

TeamBuy + American Apparel = Happy Canadian Fashionistas

Two things that I love very much in this world are deals and fashion. So, you can imagine how excited I was to see TeamBuy's latest offer:
And HOW cute is this outfit, I ask you?!
That's right, fashion-forward Canucks; TeamBuy is offering an exclusive coast-to-coast coupon for $25 off at American Apparel. If you purchase the deal between Monday, Sept 26th (TODAY!) and Sunday, Oct 2nd you will receive a $50 credit for only $25, to use online OR in-store at any location across the country.

American Apparel offers great basics for men, women and kids, so we felt like this would be a valuable feature our customers would enjoy. There is something for everyone,” said Ghassan Halazon, CEO of “Plus, we have more savings to share; anyone who downloads our new iPhone app will receive $5 in TeamBucks to use towards any offer they like.”

(Too bad I don't have an iPhone *sadface*)

What I love about TeamBuy is they offer great deals for a variety of goods and services that are actually stylish and useful - including awesome restaurants, activities and (as in the case above) fashion. It's not all tanning and teeth-whitening (I think we can all agree we have seen enough of those, non?).

I find the older I get, the more I get into basics; tried and true pieces that I can mix and match into a variety of outfits. I am on a budget, so clothes have to be versatile! As much as I love to shop, I don't have the time or money (or closet space, alas) to buy a new outfit for every occasion! A foundation of basics is the best way to get the most mileage out of your wardrobe. I love me a bright colour and a graphic print, but you have to have neutrals to ground them, and AA has some of the best basics going. Here are some of my current desirables:

Leggings - I LOVE these things, I don't care what anyone says - so comfy and a great leg slimmer (which is something I need since I am a midget with "muscular" calves - can I get an amen, real ladies?)
Red henley shirtdress - I have one similar to this in chambray and I love it. It's very polished looking but also relaxed - great for the office or the weekend. Plus, I love the pinkish-red colour

I love all the great coloured jeans/pants that were on the fall runways, and I'd love to get a pair for myself. I have a red pair already, so would love to get a cooler-coloured pair like this teal. Again, SO versatile!

My other fav would have to be that camel cape in the above photo - so cute! Great for the crisp but sunny Fall weather. I also love their Multipacks, which are a really good idea. I think we have all found a piece that we like so much that we buy one in every colour, right? Well, buying a multipack is a great way to get one of every colour/type all together. Easy-peasy (and cheaper). Um, hello?! That's the whole point of basics, right?

Hmmm, methinks a TeamBuy purchase is in order...and a shopping spree at AA!

So, what the heck is TeamBuy? encourages users to save cash as they enjoy all that their city has to offer. The site gives TeamBuyers the benefit of buying in bulk without actually having to. Each feature depends on a minimum number of buyers signing up; if the buy is successful, a Team Ticket is sent by email within 24 hours to those who purchased. If the target number of customers is not reached, the buy is not made available and no one is charged. is a Canadian-based team-buying website that launched in Toronto in October 2009. The site secures impressive savings by using team-buying power, giving users the benefit of buying in bulk without actually having to. Each feature depends on a minimum number of buyers signing up; if the Buy is successful, a Team Ticket is sent via email within 24 hours to those who purchased. If the target number of customers is not reached by midnight, the Buy is not made available and no one is charged. is currently available in Brampton, Calgary, Durham Region, Edmonton, Halifax, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Mississauga, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Victoria, Winnipeg and York Region.

The iPhone app is available through the iTunes Store and iPhone’s App Store. In addition, a mobile-friendly version of can be accessed from any mobile phone with browsing capabilities. Each of these versions enables TeamBuyers to search, buy and redeem features on the go.

For more information, please visit

For all my Hali-fine peeps - TeamBuy Halifax Twitter and Facebook:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Big Day Downtown, Part 2: Try Something 'Moo'

Anyone who knows me knows I love a challenge. So, when the Downtown Halifax Business Commission invited me to participate in their 2nd Big Day Downtown promotion, I couldn't wait to jump on board since I had so much fun last year. I was particularly intrigued by the special twist in this year's theme - Try Something New.

As someone who is always trying new things, I thought it was going to be tough to choose. I decided, since last year I spent my $100 on a bunch of little things, that this time around I would try blowing my entire budget in one place instead.

When I thought of "splurgey" things downtown that I have never done before, I immediately decided I wanted to go out for dinner at a fancy-ish restaurant (Why are you looking at me like that? On this blog, words like "splurgey" and "fancyish" actually exist. Deal with it). But not just any fancy-ish restaurant - a place I had a) never been before, and b) that specializes in food I would not normally eat or have never tried before.

My choice: CUT Steakhouse.

Ok, I realize you carnivores out there are wondering what is so "new" and  "unknown" about eating at a Steakhouse, but the thing is I am NOT a carnivore. I am not a vegetarian either but I am probably as close to being one as you can without actually bestowing the title upon yourself. I like meat, but I am not a huge fan of red meat and do not eat it very much. I try to stick to chicken and/or fish. Considering this, I have never (are you ready for this?) ordered a steak in a restaurant in my entire life.

I know. It's true though. And I have EATEN steak before, just only when it was served to me at other people's homes. I have never made myself one and I have never willingly ordered one for myself.

I have nothing against steak, it just isn't something I am drawn to for some reason that I cannot definitively explain. There is some psychological discomfort for me in eating animals that I think are cute (e.g. cows, sheep, deer, rabbits, and babies of those species in particular - and hence why I have no problem eating chickens or fish - they are not cute. And, yes, I suppose cows aren't particularly cute either, but don't ask me to explain my psychological hang-ups! I don't understand them either!)

Anyway, this is why I chose CUT:

Fancy-ish/expensive restaurant? CHECK
Place I have never eaten before? CHECK
Place that serves food I do not normally eat? CHECK

So, off we went! We were seated at a great table by the window where we could look out on the sun going down and see the sparkly white lights on the trees in front of the building on Lower Water come on after dark.

Our first impressions were pretty much what we expected - very sleek, modern decor and stylish, sophisticated servers (I almost feel bad calling them that because it seems almost beneath them, but I have no idea what their actual titles are). We felt very well taken care of from the moment we walked in - our server helped us decide on drinks (I had a Berry Tom Collins - delish! Very fresh and made with my fav Bombay Sapphire). Then she offered to bring out a tray displaying the various cuts of meat they feature.

As someone who is not a huge meat-eater, I can't say I was super-excited about having a tray of dead-cow slabs laid out in front of me, but I was intrigued so we asked her to bring it out. Even though it was a tad gross, I still found it informative. Since I am not familiar with steak, I had no idea what the difference was between each cut so it was great to have her explain this. (I only wish I got a picture, but I was a tad distracted by the dead animals - sorry, readers).

I decided on the local 10oz striploin and the boy got the Delmonico. The steaks come on their own and you order sides separately (which is one reason why I could see the budget getting out of hand). We decided on asparagus with hollandaise sauce, sweet potato au gratin and two sauces (bernaise for me, horseradish for him).

They brought out two appetizers to enjoy while we were waiting - a plate of veggie sticks with some kind of goat cheese dip, and a bread basket with two kinds of butter (one with maple). Both were delicious and presented very stylishly. The dips were both very flavourful. The steaks came out surprisingly quickly, and after a few minutes the server came right back and apologized for the sides taking longer and as a result they would be no charge! We weren't even anxious yet by that point as we had only had our steaks for about 5 minutes, so this was completely unexpected.

My steak was great - very juicy and tender - but it still wasn't my favourite part of the meal. My sauce was absolutely delicious and so were the sides. The asparagus was cooked perfectly (which is REALLY hard to do - trust me, I have tried at home and it always come out soggy) - a satisfying crunch but still tender. The sweet potato was whipped to perfection and felt like fluffy orange clouds in my mouth.

The portions were surprisingly large, too, considering we were sharing everything but the meat. I probably would have been fine with only a 6oz steak, as it turns out, because I was completely stuffed by the time we finished. We were planning on getting dessert but just did not have the room (to be honest, their dessert menu did not look like anything special anyway). I was quite disappointed we could not even find the belly-space to fit in some delicious cheese from their ala carte...well, cheese cart. I have never eaten anywhere where they have brough you a cart full of cheese as an aperitif! And WHY this is the case, I will never understand because it's a genius idea if you ask me.

On the way out, they capped off our night with a sweet surprise by giving us a small, homemade banana nut loaf to take home (which we promptly ate up the next morning and very much enjoyed). Any place that hands me free desserts on the way out the door is a "must-visit" in my book!

Our total bill (two cocktails + two steaks + two sides + two sauces) came to approximately $120 (not including tip) which I thought was pretty good considering the quality of the service and food.

I am glad I went outside my comfort zone and tried something new. However, I am sorry to say I am not a converted carnivore after my experience at CUT. While, I appreciate that a steak cooked properly can be an enjoyable meal, it just didn't turn me on enough to pull me away from my usual chicken/fish/pasta preferred trifecta. I will probably still stick to white meat most of the time.

I do, however, appreciate the fine ingredients and obvious skill that goes into making the dishes at this restaurant. I also appreciate the friendly and helpful service we received without pretention. I only wish I could afford to eat at such restaurants more often (then again, when it doesn't happen often it kind of makes it more special, no?).

Thank you SO much to the Downtown Halifax Business Commission for allowing me to have this experience - and for encouraging people to have new experiences in downtown Halifax period!

*All photos from CUT website or taken by me

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Give Back to Get Back

 Thanks to Walgreens for sponsoring my writing. Help Walgreens help others! Visit their Facebook page here to learn about their charitable partners and decide which cause Walgreens will donate to with a quick vote.
Found here
One of my favourite things to do in my spare time is to give back to my community. Sometimes this can be hard to fit into a busy schedule, but it is important to keep in mind that helping your community doesn't have to take a lot of time.

Also, giving back doesn't necessarily have to be done on a large scale. Most of us realistically cannot give that much, no matter how much we adjust our schedules. Something doesn't have to be big or earth-shattering to make a difference.

Do you want to get more involved in your community but are not sure where you should start? Think about these points:

1. Determine what exactly you have to give: Do you have any special skills that you could use to help some person or organization? e.g., Are you a web or IT guru? Perhaps you could offer help with web design or maintainence. Are you really great with kids or a particular subject? Think about offering babysitting or tutoring.

2. Make use of your existing network: Think about the people you interact with on a daily basis - e.g. family, friends, co-workers. Are they involved in a cause or is there a community project that is close to their hearts? Offer to help! Or maybe they know of a great project that is short on resources, or a particular person who needs some support.

3. Start small: It can be easy to bite off more than you can chew when you really want to help out. We can easily be overwhelmed by all the things that need support. But you are not Wonder Woman; you can only do so much and you can't solve every problem by yourself. Focus on one issue or one person to start, and set a "giving goal", e.g. I will commit 2 hours per week to this, or I will commit 3 hours every 2nd weekend - whatever works for you! You can always take on more later if you like, but it is unfair to commit to something only to back out later because you are overwhelmed.

I have participated in my community in many ways - I have volunteered at local events, served as the Editor of my local SPCA chapter newsletter, and I retweet/share any local causes or people that I think are doing great things. None of these things take a lot of my time, but I get back in satisfaction 10x what I put in.

When large, socially responsible companies, such as Walgreens, put time and money into giving back, it makes it easier for little ol' me to do it too.

Don't forget to help Walgreens help others! Visit their Facebook page here to learn about their charitable partners and decide which cause Walgreens will donate to with a quick vote. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective, which endorses Blog With Integrity, as I do.

Friday, September 9, 2011

There She Goes Again...

What?! It's the weekend again! Yes, I love 4-day weeks. Just when you think it's Thursday - surprise! It's Friday and time for two days of relaxation (ideally)...

Man, have I ever been looking forward to the weekend. I had so much on the go this week, I am physically and mentally exhausted. I feel like I have been spending all my free time trying to check to-do's off my list but I am only accomplishing a fraction of what I would like to! Frustrating. How does time become so fluid sometimes? Just slips through the fingers like water leaving you wondering where it went...

Anyway, some exciting (and slightly scary) things coming up:

Found here
* Tonight the boy and I are having dinner at CUT Steakhouse and I am really excited! It is a pricey place, where I would never normally be able to afford to eat, but because I am doing it as part of my Big Day Downtown promotion, $100 of my bill is covered! The whole idea behind the promotion is to do something new; something you have never done before and I will explain why I chose CUT on the blog next week. So check back for some sure to be mouth-watering photos and prose!

Found here
* Tomorrow I think we are going blueberry picking again in the Valley - the berries from our first trip earlier this summer are all gone and we want some stock to stick in the freezer for the winter. Fresh blueberries all year round FTW! I think we are also going to visit the Oaklawn Farm Zoo and maybe toodle around some other neat events in the Valley if there is anything going on. Any suggestions, NS folks?!

Found here
* I have a job interview (FINALLY!!) for a position at my alma mater - Mount Saint Vincent University. I am really looking forward to it because it has been a while since I have had an interview (I feel like I have been applying to millions of jobs but not getting anywhere), and it sounds like a really interesting job. It's only part-time, which is really not ideal, but I can't afford to be picky at this point. Also, I don't necessarily mind working two part-time jobs, as long as it's not too complicated logistically. And I have been taking on a lot of new, exciting writing projects, so if I can have the time to write part-time and get at least one foot out of the 9-5 game I will be pretty excited! I do still have to eat, however. Stay tuned...

Next Wednesday is my last day at my current job so I am getting a little desperate since I do not have anything else lined up. Not that I don't welcome a little break, but my wallet and I can only handle not working for so long.

* On a happier note re. my last day at work - on Thursday my mom, sister and I will be traveling to Prince Edward Island to see ELTON JOHN in concert! Ah, I'm so excited!! He is one of my favourite musicians - I love all of his music - and I've always wanted to see him live. We had a little glitch with our tickets earlier this week and we thought for a minute we wouldn't be going after all, but all is well now. I will probably do a little recap of that on the blog too, so you can look forward to lots of gloating and gushing from me (not even gonna sugarcoat that).

What are you up to this weekend?! Any exciting upcoming plans?!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mmm, Fresh Biscuit!

Photo by Me
Hey all! Check out my post on Hip Urban Girl about an awesome boutique in my city called Biscuit. I was lucky enough to interview the owner, Wendy Friedman, a few weeks ago and I was really impressed with her passion for the small business and fashion sectors (and her knowledge too - she's been doing this for a long time!). One thing I thought was really cool about her is that she was raised a Shambala Buddhist and this is basically why she moved to Halifax in the first place, because this is the international HQ for Shambala Buddhism! Cool, huh? Betcha didn't know that...

IMHO we have great shopping here in Halifax (good enough to rival bigger cities like Toronto and Montreal) so I am always excited to showcase some of these businesses to a greater audience. I am looking forward to writing about more hip, urban and passionate businesses here in my city! 

Thanks goes to Lisa and Wendy for taking me on as a new writer and being open to all my ideas!

Stay tuned for more articles about food and drink, shopping and activities in Halifax from a HUG perspective!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Who Do You Think YOU Are?

Wow, I have been gone from the Blog for a bit - sorry blog buddies! I am still here, although just barely. Things have just been a bit crazy the past couple of weeks and (I am not going to lie) I have been feeling overwhelmed. Some things had to be put on the back-burner for a little bit - ah, such is life!

One thing I missed since I was away this past weekend was the free search weekend. Normally you have to buy a subscription to access their records, but for this past weekend only you could search around for free!

Found here
Researching my roots is something I have always wanted to do but can never seem to make a priority. And since I'm on a tight budget, buying a subscription to something like this is just not in the cards. I really wish I had been home so that I could take a quick look around - who knows, maybe I would have found something interesting about my family!

My roots are sort of muddled and I really don't know anything about them at all - my mother's mother is my only living grandparent (and I honestly don't get along with her very well), is from Newfoundland originally and has an English maiden name and married name (Clancey/Walton). My mom has no siblings, and I do not even share her name anyway. I have my dad's last name (Humes) but have no contact with my dad or anyone on his side of the family. The only person I would be able to contact (and would feel comfortable doing so) is my aunt in Ontario and she isn't even my dad's biological sister (she was adopted). My dad's dad died when he was a teenager, so I never met him and his mother died when I was a little kid.

See? Where to start?

My mom would know bits and pieces about my dad's side but not much of anything solid to go on. I have a lot of questions about where my name comes from (it's sort of a strange name that you don't hear often, but you do hear "Hume" - no "s" - so there must be some connection there). Some say it's obviously English, others say it's obviously Scottish or Irish. I really have no idea. I have always felt a bit of a disconnect from my origins; no real solid connection to a particular place or people.

Not that I am not a whole person without an awareness of my roots, but it is something that would be nice to know. I have a very small family and I love the little family I have very much, but sometimes I long to know if I have more connections to greater things; important people, places and things in history.

Perhaps one of these days I will get serious about researching my ancestry and find out more about where I come from, but for now I am happy knowing where I was yesterday and where I will be tomorrow (well, most of the time).

Have you ever researched your ancestry? What did you find out? Where are your roots?

FYI there are lots of great genealogy resources for Canadians here. Ever seen the show "Who Do You Think You Are?", where celebs look back through their ancestral records to uncover fascinating connections to world events? Very interesting - check it out! I had actually only seen the American version before now, but will make sure to check out the Canadian one too.