Off the Market, In the Market - Adventures in Ottawa

The last time I was in Ottawa, I was 15. We were on a school trip for the 9th grade and I have memories of going to a whole lot of museums, getting my ears pierced at the Rideau Centre, visiting the Hard Rock Cafe and having one of our teachers advising me to "not go to bed angry" after she found out my boyfriend and I were fighting. When I found out that my sweet friend Laura would be celebrating her upcoming wedding with a bachelorette in Ottawa, I knew I was bound to make new (and better) memories and give Ottawa another chance.

Laura is one of my oldest friends. We actually met when I lived in Belleville for a year and we attended the same school for the sixth grade. Through letters, then emails, then social media we have remained friends we I moved back to Toronto and I am so very thankful for that! I can't believe it's been almost 17 years since we met. 

I scored a great deal with one of the Porter sales and found myself in Ottawa in under an hour. Laura picked me up at the airport and we enjoyed a sweet afternoon of catching up over a delicious picnic lunch. 


Kale salad with falafels, cherry tomatoes & cherries


I took a bit of a nap before we spent some time getting ready for a night on the town. Laura had prepped a great playlist of Backstreet Boys, N SYNC and the Spice Girls. It was reminiscent of our teenage years and put us both in an exceptionally good mood.

I knew the details of the party, but it was all a big surprise for Laura. We arrived at The Upkeep Shoppe to get our nails done, enjoy some awesome treats, play silly games involving underwear and of course, sip pink champagne! 


the bride to be!
pretty pretty nails
Laura took the underwear guessing game very seriously. I brought these ones - pink & fruity!
Kristy with the cupcakes and Ashley-friendly brownies
The gals at the salon took amazing care of us and Laura's friend Kristy did an awesome job of organizing and hosting. Feeling pampered and giddy, we were off to "the market" for some dancing fun. It was a really great evening filled with silly dares, awesometown music, using our hashtag #offthemarketinthemarket and sightings of 8 other bachelor/bachelorette parties. It was fantastic to spend time with some of the other gals who will be at the wedding - we're definitely going to have a very fun night in September!

Kristy & Laura - we somehow managed to acquire feather boas


Laura and I spent the next day suitably recovering with movies (Lilo & Stitch and Love Actually) and snacks, only leaving the house to face the world for a yummy dinner at The Green Door restaurant. The website says they are Ottawa's oldest and best known vegetarian restaurant, and I was happily surprised by their gluten free and dairy free options.

Many veggies, tempeh, rice & various salads - so delicious!
My dessert plate! Berry goodness, rice pudding & pecan cookie - all gluten free & vegan
Laura's rockin' chocolate cake
It was an awesome meal and a great way to cap off a super fun weekend with Laura. We had a lot of fun talking about the wedding and the shenanigans of the prior evening. It was sad to say goodbye, but it will be amazing to see her again so soon at the wedding!

I had a lovely Monday wandering around Ottawa, checking out the Van Gogh exhibit at the National Gallery (and trying not to cause trouble) and having lunch with some awesome friends who were also in town. I spent a bit of time reading my book and tweeting in the Porter lounge before enjoying a glass of red on our 45 minute flight home.


Monday afternoon wine = win
It was such an honour to be a part of Laura's bachelorette - there's now less than a month until the wedding! Ottawa, it was fun. I look forward to the next time! 

Singing for Tituss Burgess

While I was in New York, I got to meet some incredibly talented performers and do class with some ridiculously awesome people.

Jonathan Reid Gealt
Adam Guettel
Christopher Gattelli

I found myself feeling nervous and excited and inspired in every single class, but in some ways I was most nervous about our last class: pop with Tituss Burgess. There were a few reasons for this:

1. Tituss is a friggin' superstar. He's graced the stages of Broadway in shows like The Little Mermaid and Guys and Dolls as well as appearing on seasons 5 and 6 of 30 Rock.
2. His voice is UNBELIEVABLE. I think this was one of the first videos I ever saw of Tituss and every time I watch it I am just in awe. Or this. Or this. This too (mic and all)
3. Singing pop kinda makes me wanna vomit.

I mean, I can sing pop, but I don't really consider it a strength. There's been an increase in audition requirements of late consisting of a "pop/rock" song thanks to musicals like We Will Rock You, Rock of Ages, Spring Awakening etc that don't really fall into the traditional musical theatre sound. I'll sing pop when Ash and I have cabarets or when I'm at karaoke or home by myself, but I often feel like I sound like a dolt when I sing it otherwise.

So here I am, on my final night in New York City, about to sing a genre that makes me want to throw up for one of my BIGGEST musical inspirations. "Screw it, I'm just going to go up there and do my thing" I remember myself thinking. I nearly changed my song to something more "rock" about halfway through the class, but stuck to my guns to sing Kelly Clarkson's Beautiful Disaster. I sat through about 2/3 of my super talented class and decided that I was just going to get it done.

I dropped my music off with the accompanist and walked to the centre. Tituss was talking to someone else or looking through what he had written down and was halfway through saying "whenever you're ready" to me when he stopped himself and said "oh no, you are ready.You just do your thing"

So I haven't even opened my mouth yet and Tituss is excited to hear me sing. Super.

I sang the first line of the song and Tituss stopped me and said that he loved me. It was unbelievable. We worked on the first line of the song (he drowns in his dreams) and just "being" a few times and then he decided that I was going to sing the song to him. So he pulled up two chairs and I sang and he listened and held my hand and it was one of the most amazing moments of my life. (I'm bawling as I write this and reflecting on just how wonderful it was)  We talked about what I was singing about and to whom and how to convey that story simply and honestly.


Everything came really naturally and my classmates said it was a really special moment to watch - apparently even some of them had tears as well! Singing to him was such a gift and the feedback that he gave me really helped me squash all the negative self talk I had been experiencing and all the doubts I had had about making the right decision to come to New York and take this workshop. Seriously, just say yes and wonderful things will follow.

We chatted and hugged after class and he was so kind and lovely and told me that I "didn't need to do anything - that I was enough bringing the special quality that I bring". I don't think my feet touched the ground all the way home and the memories of that extra special Sunday evening helped me get through the bus ride back to Toronto.

So...
I didn't throw up.
And I got to sing for someone I adore.
And he loved it.
We'll just cross that one off the bucket list and hold that gift extra close to my heart. Just incredible.

Tituss just had a show at 54 Below, but I'm sure there will be much more to come.
He's a pretty unbelievable talent. And I feel so lucky to have had the chance to sing to him.

Beauty Stuff - Beautifying Nail Kit from Premier Spa Boutique

I got an email a couple weeks ago asking if I would like the opportunity to try out a Beautifying Nail Kit from Premier Spa Boutique. My nails shouted YES YES YES. Like Val, my nails haven't been much the same since I shellac-ed it up a little while back and I'm trying to be frugal and cut back on trips to the salon for manicures.

The kit came with three components - the buffing block, cuticle oil and hand cream. My nails were happy for the love.
Nails - before
While I sat there doing my nails, I thought of a gal in the 6th grade who did her science project on nail growth. She compared natural growth vs. using a special treatment. I did my project on barometric pressure, and somehow hers seemed so much cooler. She even got to go to the city wide Science Fair with her pretty nails. Oh the sixth grade...

I loved the 3 sides on the buffing block, and I definitely noticed an immediate difference in my nails. They were super shiny, felt smoother and looked more polished with only a few minutes of buffing.

Nails - after
Definitely shinier!
The whole process was easy peasy and I managed to take care of both my hands in under 15 minutes. While the products boast dead sea minerals, vitamins A and E as well as aloe vera, the hand cream does contain parabens, which I didn't love. My nails have maintained their happier appearance since using the kit and I'll definitely continue to use the buffing block and cuticle oil.

If you'd like to learn more about Premier Spa Boutique, you can check out their website, Facebook page or Twitter account.

That time Spinzo saved me and paid for my groceries

A couple weeks ago this happened
 

So let's back up a little bit... it started when I saw some tweets to a new company called Spinzo and joined in the fun of their #SpinzoSavesTO contest

From Spinzo: Spinzo is a smart-buying company dedicated to offering great experiences at affordable prices, that aren't the typical 50-90% deals. Spinzo cares about merchants and is dedicated to Savings! The #SpinzoSavesTO contest was started to create awareness of Spinzo's presence in Toronto. In advance of offering smart-buy deals, Spinzo is giving out what people really want: cash savings of anything! All contestants have to do is tweet at @spinzotoronto or post on our Facebook page their requests and we draw winners weekly who receive cash savings in person from the Spinzo team. 

While shoes and clothes are fun, I was trying to be practical and tweeted about saving money on groceries. Spinzo made mention of lots of expensive cheese and when I said I didn't eat cheese, the hashtag #dufflebagfullofkalechips was created, which was definitely much more up my alley! I ended up being selected as one of the first winners, which was awesome!! It was even better when they gave me 100% of my grocery bill back in cash.



Fruits and veggies, stuff for juicing, coconut water, almond milk, almond butter, yummy raw granola, tahini, tamari and a whole lotta kale were all part of my haul - it was all very exciting!!

I want to disclose that I'm writing this blog post to say thank you to Spinzo - it wasn't required as part of my win. It was really cool to have my groceries taken care of and I was definitely smiling when I was making dinner the night I won! I'd also like to see more people win and since the #SpinzoSavesTO contest is happening until September 10, you've still got time! Go tweet. Or head over to their facebook page. I'm curious to see what Spinzo has in store for Toronto down the road!

If you could, what would you save money on?

My new answers to "What have you been up to lately?"

It's been interesting to run into people lately and answer the question "what have you been up to lately?" Rather than be able to default to my usual answer of "working" or "doing a show", I've had a wider variety of answers... 








including playing in the sandbox that is now in my sunroom (true story), attending weddings and wedding related events, frolicking in parks, art journalling and having silly photo shoots with my little sister (in unplanned matching outfits no less). I've been singing and auditioning and seeing great theatre. Ash and I have started to talk about our next cabaret (October!!!). I've been doing hot yoga and rekindling my relationship with the gym. I find myself spending more time in the kitchen, making yummy things to bring to BBQ's, popsicles and treats for awesome people. I've had a lot of me time and time to reflect on what is important in my life.

This isn't what I had originally planned for my summer, but when life changed a whole lot at the end of May, this is what it became, and I'm pretty okay with that. I'm really thankful that I'm going to be able to look back  fondly on the summer of 2012.

Coming up....
This awesome fundraiser - tonight!
Seeing one of my very favourite bands
A weekend trip to Ottawa for a bachelorette
Singing in a vampire opera
Ashleyx2 cabaret planning
More popsicles
More sunshine (hopefully)
And so much more frolicking

Sister Time in Stratford

Thanks to everyone who sent me sweet tweets, comments and messages after last week's post. I'm feeling a lot better about the whole thing, it was just a really scary day! 

After feeling not so great for a couple days, it was really nice to be able to look forward to another fun trip to Stratford with Jessie for You're a Good Man Charlie Brown! It was so awesome to be included as part of the Stratford Tweeter's Club once again and have access to ridiculously great (and free for me!) seats for the show. 

We stopped in at Down the Street for dinner once again. 


And shared a really yummy curry and salad combo on the patio. It's a great little spot and the patio is adorable! In true sister fashion, we had a little photo shoot... 




We had a bit of time to kill before the show so we decided to take a little wander around downtown Stratford and saw some ominous clouds in the distance... 

 
and then in what felt like seconds we got caught in TORRENTIAL DOWNPOUR. 


So we took more photos. Obviously. 

Jessie managed to score a second umbrella at the PharmaPlus so we showed up back to the theatre feeling happy and dry. 

The show was good! Some really standout performances from Ken James Stewart as Charlie Brown, Stephen Patterson as Snoopy and Kevin Yee who stole my heart as Linus. The ensemble sounded great together, the set was super cute (with fun video elements), there was some great character development of the beloved Peanuts and the show made me smile a lot. There were lots of kids in the audience, which made everything a little unpredictable at times, but definitely enhanced the whole experience. It was another super night in Stratford and I hope to get back to see some more before the season is done! I've heard some great things about Hirsch and I definitely wouldn't mind seeing some Shakespeare. 

As always, an amazing evening with Jessie, made even more fun with some great theatre, a road trip and some delicious snacks from Bulk Barn for the drive home. The whole night made me smile a lot, which is exactly what I needed after a bit of a rough week! 

Whatcha up to for the long weekend? Have you seen any outstanding theatre this summer?