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Friday, March 27, 2015

Hip + Urban Girl of the Month: Michelle the Piñartist

By Wendy Kam Marcy

Michelle and I go all the way back to the 6th grade where I rocked a barrette in my hair. I long chose to forget this geeky image of myself but she recently reminded me and we got a good laugh at how far we both have come.

Pretty, smart and witty, Michelle was one of the "popular kids" in school - but she was never a mean girl. She was the girl that made us LMAO before we even knew there was an acronym for that. We lost touch over the years and it wasn't until I started noticing these Piñatas taking over my Facebook feed did we reconnect. Of course, these unique and fabulous creations belonged to Michelle, the beauty + brains behind Big Ass Piñata... see how this mama took partying to the next level! Say hello to Michelle Laratta, our hip + urban girl of the month!

1) Tell us about Big Ass Piñata!

Big Ass Piñata is the way I do life: big, silly, and barely held together.

A piñata is merely a container that is broken. I choose how to break it, based on a series of questions, and design a piece of art that makes sense, for whatever its intended purpose. No sticks, no hitting, no confetti is how I roll 99% of the time.

Right now, I'm working on a 3 foot, glazed, Kim K booty, a glittered 2 foot Montreal Canadiens logo, a three tiered photo-ready wedding cake, a traditional Mexican piñata (the pointy one) with gold, pearls and roses, and a ridiculously detailed Death Star. I have a niche market, but in that niche lies an overwhelming array of clients with amazing requests.

I average about two weeks per job because I work late nights cutting cardboard, glue gunning, fringing and diamond studding... not to mention painting, spray painting, glittering and making up artsy words, all while my 3.5 year old sleeps like a baby. I try to take my time because in any job, the design and build are the hardest part. I've gone back to the drawing board a few times, but once the logistics are sound, it's all 'make me pretty' from there on out.

I live for the big jobs, but I'm actually about to go in the opposite direction with a line of customizable minis that people can order and send by mail delivery to friends, co-workers, ex-boyfriends, you name it. I am pushing the envelope with this one but it's an exciting idea that I can't wait to share.

I don't like to miss a party. :)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Theatre Review: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike - Toronto

By: Alison Silveira
Playwright Christopher Durang's popular play, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike is about the dysfunctional lives of three siblings. In his Tony Award-winning play, Durang pays homage to Anton Chekov. The similarities in Chekov's play, The Cherry Orchard are quite apparent. The premise of Durang's play centers around the possibility of siblings Vanya and Sonia losing their family home as their movie star sister, Masha returns with ideas of wanting to sell their beloved home. In dramatic fashion, she comes home to her family with her much younger and handsome boyfriend, Spike and announces that they will be going to a costume party. The family argues, hilarity ensues, and a dramatic cleaning lady, Cassandra who happens to be psychic, is thrown into the mix for good measure. 
Fiona Reid is a veteran actress of the Canadian stage. Her comedic timing is impeccable and she is able to take the pathetic, self-effacing character of Sonia and convince us to root for her. I howled with laughter at Reid's impression of Dame Maggie Smith, which is spot on. In Act two, when Spike (Luke Humphrey) rudely interrupts Vanya's (Steven Sutcliffe) play reading, he becomes enraged and gives an impassioned monologue, yearning for a simpler time when Facebook and Twitter were unheard of. Vanya's outburst was unexpected as it was out of his complacent character for him to react so vehemently. Watching Sutcliffe deliver his monologue was one of the most intense experiences that I have witnessed on stage in recent memory. He was absolutely breathtaking and held my attention, as he bared his soul on stage. While Durang's play is certainly a side-splitting comedy, Vanya's monologue is serious and poignant. 
Jennifer Dale's Masha is over the top dramatic and is an attention-seeking lady that has to have it her way or the highway. Spike's nonchalant arrogance and flagrant disregard for decorum is at once irksome and playful. Humphrey portrays Spike as uncouth and selfish and his upbeat demeanor is in stark contrast to the other characters' woe is me attitude.
The cast of quirkily named Chekovian characters are exceptional as an ensemble and will have you bursting into peals of laughter! 

Starring Steven Sutcliffe, Fiona Reid, Jennifer Dale and Luke Humphrey.
Playwright Christopher Durang
Directed by Dean Paul Gibson
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike plays at the Panasonic Theatre until April 5, 2015.
Photos by Jeremie Andrew

Urban Eats @ The Independence

By: Lisa Ng

I try to avoid touristy restaurants whenever I travel. 

I run in the other direction when I see a hostess standing outside trying to usher people in. Whenever I'm in Santa Monica, I'm always puzzled about finding a great, casual and reasonably place to dine with a good cocktail menu and small share plates. I prefer variety over quantity, so I was thrilled to attend a tasting at The Independence in Santa Monica. The restaurant hit all the checkpoints I was looking for and I swoon over any bar that uses fresh-squeezed juices in their cocktails. 

Here are a few of my favourites from this newly-opened gastropub:

I will not say no to Grilled Octopus ($16) – especially when it sits on a bed of smoked beans, grapes, celery and pickled chili. The tentacle was oversized and perfectly tender – no rubbery-ness here.

Tortellini Duo ($15) – I dove right into one of these delicate tortellini pillows filled with either herbed goat cheese. The pasta is made fresh daily in-house and perfectly chewy in texture. The duo refers to a mix of the goat cheese ravioli and spaghetti squash filled ravioli – which is lovely that you get a variety in one dish. The pasta floats atop a simple sage brown butter sauce with parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Event: NORDSTROM Warehouse Sale by StyleDemocracy

By Wendy Kam Marcy

Psssst have you heard... StyleDemocracy, Canada’s leading retail event and social commerce company, will be hosting NORDSTROM’s first Canadian warehouse sale!!

Expect to find over 70 designer brand names and designer-inspired fashion + products from NORDSTROM’s retail roster. This is the perfect excuse to freshen up your spring wardrobe with up to 80% off retail pricing on clothing, accessories and footwear for men, women and children.

Mark your calendars hip + urban girls because this inaugural warehouse sale is happening at the International Centre in Mississauga (6900 Airport Road) from Thursday, April 2 to Monday, April 6.

We'll be there on Tuesday, March 31 for a pre-sale media shopping event so follow us on Twitter @hipurbangirl for a sneak peek!

For more information, please visit the StyleDemocracy website and check them out on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spring Sessions - Toronto's Festival of Beer

By: Lisa Ng

If you can't wait until summer to get your beer festival on, the organizers of Toronto's Festival of Beer is celebrating the end of winter with their 2nd Annual Spring Sessions!

The event will be held on April 24th & 25th at Sherbourne Common outdoor space (at the foot of Lower Sherbourne Street) with more than 20 breweries, food vendors and live entertainers including critically acclaimed artist Lowell, and 102.1 the Edge's Next Big Thing artist JJ & The Pillars.

Sample your favourite brews and discover new ones. There will also be bites from Caplansky's, Tiny Tom Donuts, The Pie Commission, Smoke's Poutinerie, Rashers, Chimney Stax Baking Co., Fidel Gastro's, M.e.n.u., Hogtown Smoke and more.
Tickets for the Spring Sessions of Toronto's Festival of Beer are on sale now for $30, which includes five sampling tokens and a Commemorative Festival Mug. This is a 19+ event. Tickets for the festival can be purchased online at

Lisa Ng is also the Editor-in-Chief of This Beautiful Day, a lifestyle blog for smart women. You can follow her online @helloLisaNg + on Instagram @ThisBeautifulDay.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Urban Eats @ Blue Mountain

By Wendy Kam Marcy

Part of a great vacation is being able to indulge in food and Blue Mountain offers no shortage of great restaurants. Here are my top places for breakfast, lunch and dinner in The Village...

Famous for its “All Day Breakfast”, Sunset Grill is a California-style breakfast house with a warm and friendly community atmosphere. The portions are generous at very wallet-friendly prices. It’s my go-to spot to bring my family before hitting the ski slopes or going mountain biking and hiking in the summer.

Craving chocolate chip pancakes, eggs benedict or a club sandwich with home fries? The question is what does this place not serve in their expansive menu?!?!

You can't miss the iconic Firehall in the middle of the Village. Firehall Pizza Co. serves pizzas (of course!) with every topping imaginable and they all have fun names like High Stakes Porker, Jimmy The Greek and Hawaii Five-O. It's the place you come to for your pub fix and comfort foods but feel free to order a heaping salad if you prefer a lighter meal. I recommend the Spinach Salad because I love their tangy mango vinaigrette.

There are several places to get French Onion Soup at Blue Mountain but by far, they serve the best one because the onion is sweet, there is just the right amount of melted cheese and the broth is not overly salty.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Quick & Easy Way To File Your Taxes

By Wendy Kam Marcy

It's that time of year again... to file your taxes.

Spring is in the air, the birds are chirping and all you want to think about is sitting on a patio sipping sangrias. So seriously, there is no bigger buzz kill than opening your mailbox to find that dreaded T4 slip!

Taxes are no fun, even for number crunching geeks.

There is nothing cool I can say about it to convince you otherwise. My BFF is an accountant who loves her job but even she gets bitter when tax season rolls around.

So while we can't make taxes hip + exciting, we can definitely help make the DIY process a little less painful.

Introducing H&R Block Online Tax Software...

A complimentary service for all Canadian taxpayers.

This service is easy to use because of the straight-forward, interview-style approach and oh did we mention it's free?! Yup, we checked it out ourselves and there are no hidden fees.

My Top 5 Road Trip Essentials

By: Lisa Ng

I'm big into road trips.

I've driven from Toronto to California twice on Route 66 and back to Toronto through Colorado. A few of my other favourite trips have been to the East Coast all the way to PEI and then down to Washington, DC. I was also fortunate to drive Highway 1 along California's gorgeous coastline.

I've learned a couple things from all these road trips, so here are my Top 5 Road Trip Essentials:

1) An Updated GPS - I know what you're all thinking. Why do I need a GPS when I have an iPhone? Well, if you're planning a road trip throught the United States - loading Google maps will use up a TON of data, which doesn't come cheap if you're roaming outside of Canada. Spend $150 on a good GPS, make sure the maps are updated and you'll save in the long run on your cellphone bill.

2) A Gourmet Snack Bag - I never leave on a road trip with a gourmet picnic, a cooler full of cold drinks and a bag or box of gourmet snacks. My road trip snack essentials include two big 1 litre bottles of water - you'll want to stay hydrated in the car. 

I also bring something fizzy like a natural soda or something sweet like coconut water. Because road meals are not always the healthiest I may pack something easy like turkey vegetable apps to keep us going on the road. 

My other snack essentials include a big trip to Whole Foods and loading up on KIND bars, apple slices, grapes, mixed nuts, dried mango slices, terra chips, salsa & chips and hummus and vegetables. You never know where hunger will attack and where in the middle of nowhere you will be.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Post Market - Toronto

By: Lisa Ng
If you're looking for your indie craft fix and live in Toronto, you'll definitely want to mark your calendar for The Post Market
This cute little craft pop-up will be happening for one-day only on Sunday March 29th from 10 AM - 5 PM at The Great Hall at 1087 Queen Street West. 
It's definitely something to plan your Sunday around! Stop in at the market, support local artisans, find a few cute gifts for Easter, Mother's Day or any birthdays you have coming up and then pop-up across the street to The Drake Hotel for their delicious weekend brunch after. It's a great way to pass a Sunday afternoon.
Vendors include Ele & Ela, Tori's Bakehouse, Greenhouse Juice, Coven and Fitzroy Boutique! To see the full list of vendors and for more information visit The Post Market Facebook Page for the latest info.

Lisa Ng is also the Editor-in-Chief of This Beautiful Day, a lifestyle blog for smart women.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Event: Kimchi and Experimentations

By Wendy Kam Marcy

Once you've mastered the basics of sauerkraut, join Rebekka Hutton from Alchemy Pickle Company to take your fermentation to the next level. You will make a traditional kimchi in class to take home, and discuss variations using similar techniques. You will also make at least one other ferment, as determined by season and folks in the class. Understanding of the basics of lacto-fermentation preferred.

Whether making soap or sauerkraut, Little House in the City provides the supplies and support for creative adventures for a broad range of DIY projects as well as ethically and locally produced artisanal goods and crafts.

Visit their website for more information and to view other event listings.

Where: Little House in the City
When: Tuesday, March 31 at 7pm - 9pm
Workshop Fee: $50