Tag Archives: money

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Looking back at my first Carnival . . . (Trinidad 2016)

First things first: I don’t publish new blog posts here as often as I should. And this one probably should have been finished and shared sooner, but I was of two minds about whether to blog about the whole trip or just certain parts of it . . . and if only certain parts, which ones to leave out . . . and what was a reasonable amount of pictures to share . . . until finally I decided. Here’s one big chunky post about my 20 days in paradise, and (as always) you can read all, skip some, and/or visit my Instagram page for a super-quick photo recap if you’re short on time.

My Aunt Ruth and Uncle Clive (i.e. the best hosts EVER), and fellow first-time Carnival visitor Wyvolyn, from Jamaica

My Aunt Ruth and Uncle Clive (i.e. the best hosts EVER), and fellow first-time Carnival visitor Wyvolyn, from Jamaica

As some of you know, my father is Trinidadian by birth. This was actually only my second trip to the twin islands of Trinidad & Tobago, and although I’m an avid Caribana girl, this was my first Trinidad Carnival. I’ve spent years hearing about how T&T does it much better than we do here in Toronto, and of course I was excited to see for myself what it was like, stuff myself with delicious food, bake myself in the sun, and spend lots of time with family members I don’t see very often. I worked out a plan to budget for this escapade starting around the time of my last birthday (early March). This trip wasn’t cheap! It would’ve been easier if the Canadian dollar weren’t so dismal, or if this year’s Carnival season wasn’t so short (note: for 2017 it’s at the end of February instead of the beginning), and many friends and relatives who were originally planning to come decided not to, but I went for it anyway.

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I basically spent my first few days sleeping in, sunning myself and eating my aunt’s delicious food, and my first nights being taken out by one or another of my local friends. Sidebar: I wish upon every person in the world a host as gracious and generous as my aunt and uncle, who gave me a room of my own, copied a set of keys for me, were always ready with advice and answers to my questions, and basically let me do as I please as long as I came back to the house to eat once in awhile. <3 <3 <3 <3 <3

O2 Stadium, where Tuesday on the Rocks was held

O2 Stadium, where Tuesday on the Rocks was held

My first big outing was Tuesday on the Rocks. I adore Kes the Band so I was determined to get to this show, even though it was far away and I had no for-sure way to get there or back and I was going alone. After many frustrating interactions with would-be drivers and would-be companions, I can look back and say it was one of the best nights I had in Trinidad. KTB and their many musical guests put on a great show, I made a friend or two, and I was able to eat some legit Montreal poutine too!

With the homie Raff at Scorch DDI

With the homie Raff at Scorch DDI

Next up was a boat ride. Getting to the Harbour Master by myself from Arouca was a bit of a challenge (the second maxi taxi ride was challenging), but the Scorch DDI boat ride was worth it. Found an old friend, made some new ones, jammed to some sweet music while sailing “down de islands” on a big-ass boat, wearing a bikini in early February . . . it was a good time even though we left and returned to the dock late, which almost messed up my family’s plans for the night. My aunt and uncle and their friend (who was visiting from Jamaica to take in her first Carnival too) and I went to see traditional mas, where masqueraders portray certain historical characters, competing for their titles before a panel of judges, and often incorporating some form of social commentary into their performances.

Moko jumbies =)

Moko jumbies =)

It was important for me to get a taste of the culture behind Carnival, instead of just back-to-back-to-back parties. This may be stating the obvious, but I also went to the beach (ahhhh Maracas, one of my favourite places in the world) and spent hours lounging in the sun and reading.

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Plus I did some other random things, like trying a couple of hot yoga classes and visiting and ashram and the Temple in the Sea, going into the city for one of the Kiddie Carnival parades, and getting up before 4am to go see the street theatre re-enactment of the 1881 Canboulay Riots. (No pictures, because even though we got there around 5:15am, all the seats with views were already gone!)

First yoga class!

First yoga class!

Baby moko jumbies!

Baby moko jumbies!

But don’t worry, I partied plenty! My favourite event was Bess Lime, which I was so glad to have my Toronto friends Kerron and Tiffany come to with me.

Tiff, Kerron and me!

Tiff, Kerron and me!

Before the boat sailed...

Before the boat sailed…

This was a Sunday cooler fete on the water where 3 boats were filled, sailed separately down the islands a bit, then dropped anchor and linked up so you could switch boats with the DJ’s music synched.  The sun went down, the vibe was wicked, there was a fireworks display before we sailed back to the dock separately — and for only $300 TT (about $63 Canadian, and this party included food plus chasers and ice) the value was amazing.

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I did get a few hours of sleep after finally getting home from Bess Lime, and then it was J’ouvert. Tiff and Kerron and I got picked up at something like 2am (budget extra time because of all the roadblocks) and met up with our Yellow Devilz crew at 4am, then partied through the darkened streets of the city dashing paint and water around until 8 or 9am.

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My awesome aunt Giselle brought me to her place to shower and change, then dropped me off so I could meet up with my band and do Monday mas.

My Monday wear

My Monday wear

Full disclosure – I found Monday mas kind of boring and disorganized.

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It felt kind of like a practice run for Tuesday, except most people weren’t in costume, which made it basically a huge mobile street party . . . which is cool, I guess, but I was pretty unimpressed by the time I got home that evening.

Drivahhhh! Doh stop atall . . .

Drivahhhh! Doh stop atall . . .

"Get in yuh section!"

“Get in yuh section!”

But of course the excitement came back when I got up before 4 on Tuesday morning to put on my glorious costume, get picked up at 5:30 (my driver is the bomb, you guys) so I could be on time to meet my band (actually early, since I had such an interesting time finding them the day before when I arrived late). Tuesday mas was everything I’d hoped for.

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Good morning, Machel =)

Good morning, Machel =)

Frontline. Can I get a corporate sponsor next year?

Frontline. Can I get a corporate sponsor next year?

There may be fewer men, but don't count them out!!

There may be fewer men, but don’t count them out!!

This would be a good time to compare a few notes. You can believe the hype: Trinidad Carnival is, in most ways, superior to Toronto’s Caribana. You pay WAY more in Trinidad (even taking into account that you have two parade days instead of one) but far more is included *if* you’re with one of the well-organized bands (not just a gorgeous costume and great DJs and unlimited alcohol, but nuff staff and nuff security and 3 meals over the 2 days and shaded rest areas in the Savannah at lunchtime). You can play with a monstrously large band in Trinidad, if that’s your thing (like, 15,000 masqueraders), whereas in Toronto I think we tap out at about 3,000 masqueraders in a large band. Both have celebrity guests, life-giving music, DJs who tend to talk too damn much over the microphone, a super-high ratio of women to men, locals, tourists, first-timers, veterans, well-meaning stormers, and the feeling that you’re living it up in this very moment so every other moment is inconsequential. (Come on, I know I’m not the only one who feels like that when I’m playing mas; that’s why we’re called “revellers!” A lie?!)

Two of my favourite Fantasy sections this year: Dolce Vita (the ladies on either side of me) and my section, Ashwiyaa

Two of my favourite Fantasy sections this year: Dolce Vita (the ladies on either side of me) and my section, Ashwiyaa

Spotted . . . right after crossing the stage

Spotted . . . right after crossing the stage

#allahwe

#allahwe

There are things I prefer about Caribana though. I prefer to run into tons of people I know in addition to meeting lots of new sexy friends. I like knowing exactly what the parade route is, and knowing exactly what the order of the bands is. I like not having any bands who are so unmanageably huge that they go off somewhere else so as not to interfere with the other bands. I like having only one stage, at the beginning of the parade route (Toronto, can we please go back to that???), and I like being asked by tourists and press people and amateur photographers for photos all day long . . . it seemed like there was a lot less of that for Carnival since they all had exponentially more people to photograph than they would’ve at Caribana. (I like living within walking distance from the parade too, but that’s not Trinidad’s fault!)

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Anyway, my heart was full by the time night fell and a new friend helped me through the mobs of people along the Avenue to meet up with my driver and Kerron and Tiff. The two of them had invited me on a hike excursion the following morning but I’d opted out, since I figured my feet would hurt or I’d be tired. On Ash Wednesday I actually woke up fresh as a daisy, but too late to join them, so after aborted plans to go to the beach and a pool party I napped and then stuffed myself at a dinner party my aunt and uncle and their friend were hosting. While everyone else was flying back home and/or getting back into their work routine, I spent a lot of time with family, including a chartered boat ride to Nelson Island for a great lunch event put on by the African Women’s Association.

Josiah thought he could get away without taking me for a ride on his bike . . . silly cousin!

Josiah thought he could get away without taking me for a ride on his bike . . . silly cousin!

Me and my Aunt Gigi!!

Me and my Aunt Gigi!!

Rock Island, from Nelson Island

Rock Island, from Nelson Island

Nelson Island. Which maybe should be called Rock Island.

Nelson Island. Which maybe should be called Rock Island.

with Uncle Wayne and Aunty Yvette

with Uncle Wayne and Aunty Yvette

Cousin Dominic!

Cousin Dominic!

Tristan and Anya <3

Tristan and Anya <3

Even after almost 3 weeks, I wasn’t ready to come home. Even after a week back at home, I’m picturing myself in Trinidad and planning to bring a bunch of friends with me next time.

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Under 2000 words? Not bad . . . because I could literally fill books with my memories from this trip. But I hope you got a taste of it here on my little blog, and if you want to join me for pretty much any Carnival anywhere in the world (I’m now itching not only to do Trinidad Carnival regularly but to check out Notting Hill Carnival, Brazil Carnival, Bermuda Carnival, Jamaica Carnival, Hollywood Carnival . . . ), drop me a line!

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xoxoxo

TIFF2015redcarpet

10 Goals, 12 Months – My Year-End Blog

So I’m back to the blog – and before I write anything else, let me alert you that this here post will make more sense if you’ve seen that there one first.

July seems like a crazy long time ago! But if you know me, you know I had to check back in on the aforementioned goals before closing out the year.

Remember, 2 out of my 10 goals for 2015 had already been completed by July 2nd: returning to Haïti with Third World Awareness for their 2015 trip, and being a model in the Carnival Nationz band launch.

1 out of the remaining 8 goals was already a Nope, since I did not make it to Las Vegas in May.

Now, what about the remaining 7?

I said I would book and complete at least 6 singing gigs this year; I’d done a handful by July 2nd, but 1 of them was unpaid; by now I’ve done 6 paid engagements.

Me with Jerome, one of my (singing) partners in crime who I met this year!

Me with Jerome, one of my (singing) partners in crime who I met this year!

Out of the 4 acting gigs I decided to book and complete this year, 1 was completed by the midway point . . . and although I’ve had auditions and callbacks since then, I haven’t actually booked any others. (Yet.)

How about those lofty financial goals? Will I celebrate my birthday by having zero remaining debt and playing mas in Trinidad Carnival? HELL YEAH!!! I’m officially debt-free, having eliminated more than $21,000 worth of debt in just under 3 years; I’ve already bought my plane ticket and I’m playing mas too! Stay tuned to my Instagram account for nufffff pictures…

Salamander, one of my early faves

Salamander, one of my early faves

My trip to New York? My friends bailed on me and I didn’t go.

My road trip? I didn’t organize anything in time; but there’s always next year.

My reintroduction into the world of dating? Well yeah, actually, that did happen. Next question =)

#datenight

#datenight

Re-qualifying for the first promotion of my network marketing business? Nope, I didn’t hit that goal. Keep nudging me for 2016, okay?

 

The final tally? 5 out of 10 of my 2015 goals were completed in 2015.

50%.

Half.

I’m not sure if that’s good or bad . . . if I got a 50% grade on any course I took I’d be furious about it . . . but then again, the point of personal goal-setting is to go big or go home. Right?

 

Anyway, time to take a look at the year ahead and figure out what I’ll be getting up to next. ;-)

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… unless I manage to complete another one in the next 5 days … hey, anything’s possible!

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Midway Blog – 2015

July 2nd marks the midway point of a 365-day year.

I always have multiple achievements in progress, both long-term and short-term, in multiple areas of my life. This year I selected 10 specific ones to reach by year’s end and 10 more to achieve within the next 10 years, and since we’re halfway done 2015 I figured it was time for a quick check-in…

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2 of my Goals for 2015 have been successfully completed.

I returned to Haïti with Third World Awareness; and I modelled in the Carnival Nationz band launch for 2015.

Ayiti cherie!

Ayiti cherie!

Finally!

#finally

 

 7 of my Goals for 2015 are Works In Process. Specifically . . .

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3 Goals are In Process – Stage 3 (the work has started, but isn’t complete yet):

I said I was going to book and complete at least 6 singing gigs this year; I’ve done 5.

Many of my performances so far this year have been with the wonderful, beautiful Sunset Service Choir.

Many of those performances have been with the wonderful, beautiful Sunset Service Choir.

I said I was going to book and complete at least 4 acting gigs; I’ve done 1.

The stage. Sonnets for an Old Century was my first acting gig of the year.

The stage. Sonnets for an Old Century was my first acting gig of the year.

I said I’m going to celebrate my next birthday by being debt-free and playing mas in T&T Carnival 2016; in terms of saving up money and securing accommodations, I’m on track and on schedule.

hopefully with my cousin Kari!

hopefully with my cousin Kari!

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3 Goals are In Process – Stage 2 (the planning is underway):

I said I was going to take at least 1 trip to New York . . . it looks like it’ll happen in August.

I said I was going to take at least 1 road trip (probably to New York, if I’m being honest) . . . so if New York in August happens and I don’t fly there, that’ll be two goals crossed off with one stroke of the pen.

I said I was going to start dating again *gasp!* I decided it was time to reboot my non-platonic social life, and since I don’t want to jinx anything, let’s just say it’s looking like it’ll be a fun summer =)

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1 Goal is In Process – Stage 1 (I need to get on it):
I said I was going to promote to the first level of management with my network marketing business . . .I’ll be re-qualifying this month!

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Finally, there is one goal I set for this year that I know I’ve missed: an event in Las Vegas in April which I wanted to attend and ultimately chose not to, in keeping with the achievement of my next-birthday-related goal listed above.

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And as for my next-ten-years list? More than half are already works in progress.  :)

Cheers!

Cheers!

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29 THINGS TO TELL MY 10-YEARS-AGO SELF

I’m in the last year of my twenties, which means I think I’m a lot wiser than I really am. Recently … thanks mostly to Throwback Thursdays, the Crash Course educational series on YouTube, and the work of playwright Jose Rivera … I started wondering what my current, past and future selves might say to one another if they all met somehow, and I compiled this list of things I would love to go back in time and say to myself at the end of my teens. I wouldn’t answer any of her obvious questions (No, you really shouldn’t get back together with him; Yes, you’ll be able to pay your way through school, so relax) because, hey, there are some lessons she needs to learn the hard way. Also, to keep things interesting, I would purposely not divulge which parent will move overseas, when and where and why I get tattooed, or how much (or is it how little?) I weigh in spring 2015.

Here are 29 pieces of advice for the 2005 edition of myself, delivered with lots of love and a steupse or two.

 

1. Look for “flaws” in your character, not your appearance.

2. What you do when no one is watching matters even more than you already know.

3. The sooner you acknowledge the power of your words, the better things will be.

4. It is possible to create great art from a happy place.

5. You have the best dad ever too.

6. Practice being quicker to get over disappointments and slower to roll your eyes.

7. I love that you take so many pictures, but you don’t need to have double copies of all of them. (Also, since we’re on the subject: in one of the pictures up top, if not both, you are actually 18. You took so many that year there weren’t many to pick from the year after. But it’s all good, because your looks haven’t changed much since you were 2.)

8. Figure out how to control your emotions, and your imagination, or else they will control you.

9. When it comes to money, pay more attention to the direction than the amount.

10. Also, go out of your way to learn more about finances than what you’re being told.

11. Asking for help does get easier.

12. Saying goodbye gets easier too.

13. Letting go after saying goodbye will probably get easier. One day. I hope.

14. Soon you’ll come across this thing called Facebook, and I applaud your decision to hold out for awhile. But get on the Instagram bandwagon quickly.

15. Never stop dancing.

16. Singing will take you further than you think. Feel free to interpret that literally.

17. Don’t worry that you’re too old to get back into acting.

18. Don’t worry that you’re too old for anything.

19. Don’t worry. At all.

20. Take your own eighth-grade advice: Travel, travel, travel! (You remember why you said that, right? Good.)

21. Being single can be sexy. And “sexy” has a greater and better meaning than you realize right now.

22. Go clubbing a lot over the next little while; you’ll get tired of it pretty soon.

23. Experiences > possessions.

24. Classics > hits.

25. American men will always be a thing.

26. Take your time figuring out where you stand on religion and spirituality.It is nobody’s business but your own.

27. The only difference between a valley and a hill is your perspective.

28. I am extremely proud of you.

29. You are going to love what comes next.

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ABOUT A YEAR AGO

It’s the evening of November 27th, 2014. I am reading a library book, editing a blog entry, messing around with lyrics for a new song, playing soca in my head, wondering why my back hurts on one side, and contemplating going to the kitchen to get a snack . . . all pretty much at the same time.

I was doing a lot of things at this time on last November 27th, too. I was at the Lester B Pearson International Airport and I was wondering what I had forgotten to pack, helping carry bags and musical instruments, joking around to keep myself from feeling nervous, celebrating the fact that the wind and snow outside had lost their power over me, taking pictures, saying goodbye to my parents, and forbidding myself to cry. I was about to leave home for my first overseas gig, to spend six months singing in Dubai.

It’s times like this that I realize, all over again, what a difference a year makes.

Here are some current-me updates, in case me-from-a-year-ago is interested. Since last November 27th, I have:

 

– completed the Dubai gig (153 shows done, and 52 songs written during downtime, but who’s counting?)

– met some great new and hopefully lifelong friends

– gained and lost weight

– gained and lost and gained hair length

– gained and lost a glorious Arabian tan

– developed and recovered (?) from crushes on numerous men from the UK

– tried fly boarding

– landed my first role in a feature film, gaining insight about myself and other people as I learned what it feels like to be the subject of criticism in the big wide world of social media

– been blessed by the arrivals of 5 (!) new baby cousins and joined several of my friends in welcoming their new babies too

– married off one of my dearest friends; this time a year ago she and her husband weren’t even engaged yet

– made lots of progress in the creation and development of a new TV series

– paid off a significant amount of my personal debt

– successfully relaunched my online beauty/health/wellness business, and found some new outlets for my skills as a writer/blogger and editor while continuing to create and go to auditions

 

That list looks pretty good to me! Heading into this American Thanksgiving weekend, I’m reminded again of how much I have to give thanks for in just the last year alone. Now, let’s see what other tricks 2014 has up its sleeve . . . =)

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10 MARKERS OF A REALLY GOOD PARTY … OR A REALLY BAD ONE

 

Caribana weekend has come and gone and I refuse to dedicate this month’s Top Ten Tuesday to the mess that was the Grand Parade . . . partially because everyone else is blogging about it right now . . . and partially because I’d rather focus on positives than negatives.

However, various events from this weekend have led me to spend some time thinking about the best and worst parties I’ve attended, many of them occurring on a jump-up weekend in the past, and what sets apart the great from the good, and the bad from the truly terrible. See if you agree with any/all of these.

 

1. WHO YOU’RE WITH

I mean really. You can have an amazing time in a condemned haunted house if the company you’re keeping is cool; yet if you’re invited as a VIP guest to some awesome soirée but you don’t like the crowd, you’ll probably be wishing you were somewhere else.

Party people!

Party people!

Everybody’s got those friends who they would go anywhere with. Keep them at the top of your invite list.

 

2. WHERE YOU ARE

Even with the important “who” detail out of the way, the “where” is still important. Some people love clubs, while some of us are getting really tired of them. Some people love pool parties, while some people don’t want to spend an entire afternoon being afraid of getting wet.

Good peoples, plus a party on a boat?  #yup!

Good peoples, plus a party on a boat? #yup!

Know your preference.

 

3. YOUR PURPOSE

You left your place and got dressed up (maybe; see #5) for a reason; that reason has to be in line with the party you’re going to! Example: I’ll get excited to go to a fête, but not to a bar. I don’t particularly like drinking, but I love soca, so that choice is obvious for me.

Our purpose was CRYSTAL CLEAR!

Our purpose was CRYSTAL CLEAR!

One of the best parties I can remember being at was a 90s jam at the Ram in the Rye, back when I was a student at Ryerson. DJ Starting from Scratch cemented his status as my favourite DJ (and reaffirmed it in #7) by playing nothing but 90s music. If I’d gone out hoping to do anything BUT dance to all those old-school jams, I would’ve been in the corner with a sour face.

 

4. YOUR TRIP THERE AND BACK

Ever get to a party exhausted because it was such a struggle to find parking, or you got lost, or something like that? Instant loss of fun points. This is why I stick to downtown events where, worst comes to worst, I can probably take a taxi or a streetcar there and back again. If you do like drinking, you’ll probably prefer partying where you aren’t the DD.

Don't let it take too long to reach the party ...

Don’t let it take too long to reach the party …

For me personally, one of my favourite things about living near Bathurst and Lake Shore Blvd is that I’m walking distance from the Caribana parade. No waiting for anybody; when I’m ready to leave, bye!!!

 

5. YOUR CLOTHING

How are you gonna have fun if you’re constantly sucking in your stomach or snagging your shirt or sweating too much? Personally I like parties which don’t require much clothing at all (lol), because this minimizes the amount of time I have to spend considering all these variables.

 

Couldn't even count the amount of times I wore this top ... super-comfortable and it always looked great.

Couldn’t even count the amount of times I wore this top … super-comfortable and it always looked great.

Which brings us to . . .

 

6. YOUR ACCESSORIES

Every female reading this has, at some point, suffered due to an unfortunate choice of footwear at a party. Shoe manufacturers seem to have discovered a way to make certain pumps feel deceptively comfortable in the store and around the house and for maybe the first 90 minutes when you finally debut them, and then suddenly your feet are burning like hell fire. Every male reading this has, at some point, shaken his head and wondered (silently, if he’s smart) why a female would do that to herself. I have been literally carried back to the car (thanks Kerron!). I have spent most of the night dancing from the waist up only, because my friend and I knew full well that if we left our seats, the other footsore females who were circling would make sure we never got to sit down again (shoutouts to Dawn Dai!). And on numerous occasions I have brought a pair of flat shoes in my purse in case the pain from the heels got too intense.

Yes, we got a cute pic out of it. But we were legit concerned that I might cripple myself walking back across the gravel parking lot, so he really did carry me. #clearlyakeeper

Yes, we got a cute pic out of it. But we were legit concerned that I might cripple myself walking back across the gravel parking lot, so he really did carry me. #clearlyakeeper

Shoes are a biggie, but there are other accessories that can seriously kill your vibe too. Like earrings that are too heavy to let you really dance. And hairpieces that threaten to separate from your head if you dance too hard. So choose your ENTIRE wardrobe carefully.

 

7. THE DJ

If there is a DJ. Because sometimes you want to go to a party where you can have an actual conversation; and sometimes you’re okay just hearing your friend’s iTunes playlist in the background. But when the DJ is legit, he or she has tremendous influence on whether you’re smiling or screwfacing.

summerbreezeI attended “Summer Breeze” this Caribana Sunday, which was a daytime rooftop party, and the DJs (the main ones were Toronto’s own DJ Starting from Scratch and DJ Dany Neville from Dubai) were so proper. Great mixing, good pacing, a wicked soca set in the middle of the event, and — praise Jesus — there was zero talking over the music. If you are a DJ who thinks I came out to hear you talk, you are sadly mistaken. And I know plenty of girls who get irritated by repeated exhortations to walk roun if yuh pussy tun up, for example. Even dudes get salty if you interrupt the music one too many times — why should their bubble get cut short because you like the sound of your own voice so much? It’s like someone with a megaphone walking in on a couple in a baby-making zone. Stop it.

 

8. THE PRICE POINT

This is a dealbreaker for a lot of folks; hey, it’s a tough economy. And yes, I do realize that charging admission helps to keep out some of the riffraff, usually. But I am so much more likely to buy an early-bird ticket for an event, or choose just one expensive party every few months and stay on the cheaper side for the rest, because let’s face it: some of the best parties I’ve ever gone to (like the 90s jam in #3, and a few wedding receptions, and even some high school dances back in the day) didn’t cost me a thing to get inside.

Nish, Dija and me!

Nish, Dija and me!

With that in mind, when someone is sweet enough to cover your cover for you, you’re automatically more likely to have fun; like when my homegirl Nish bought me a ticket to the 2014 Camo boat ride to welcome me home to Toronto. Love you girl!!!

 

9. THOSE PEOPLE (NOT YOUR PEOPLE, THE OTHER ONES)

If your crowd is all fun and friendly and everyone else in the venue is stush, sure, you can just ignore everyone else in the venue. But it really is more fun when a whole bunch of like-minded people get together, and by the time you leave, some have gone from strangers to friends.

New friend Doru, who I met in Dubai? Will we ever meet again? Who knows. The point is we had fun at the Cavalli Club =)

New friend Doru, who I met in Dubai! Will we ever meet again? Who knows. The point is we had fun at the Cavalli Club =)

Yes, I obviously like meeting new guys when I go out; my roster can usually use new names and faces! ;-)  But I’ve even made great new girlfriends out at events, or reconnected with old ones. It really is about people getting together and having a good time.

 

10. YOU

Strangely enough, even though I’ve just spent all this time listing external factors, it comes down to you and your mindset. When I decide to let go of my insecurities, I have a great time. When I decide to live in the moment like I might never get to go to a party ever again, I have a great time. When I remember to laugh about (or at) painful shoes, unfriendly people, annoying DJs, inflated prices, my bestie who’s not there, or how long the lineup was, I have a great time.

Once me, myself and I have decided to have fun, it's a wrap!

Once me, myself and I have decided to have fun, it’s a wrap!

After all, it isn’t my job to control everything; and if it were, I’d never be able to have fun. Here’s hoping I can remember that more often. And here’s hoping I see you at another fête, day party, or house jam sometime soon! ;-)

 

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MY DUBAI FASHION SPREE

Yep, a fashion spree.  Not a shopping spree, because it isn’t like I bought a ton of stuff.  What I did was design and commission two beautiful new pieces of clothing, and I feel kind of silly for not having done this sooner in life!

Some of you remember (I blogged about it here) me saying I wanted to have some clothing made for me by a local tailor. It’s finally done, and the experiment was a huge success. Check it out …

First I started looking around for inspiration. I saw a dress online a long time ago and I really wanted it, but the site only had super-small Asian sizes available. It was a lovely pale blue chiffon dress with an almost fairy-like feel to it, and the idea of it stuck with me. If I saw a dress on Etsy or somewhere else that kind of resembled it, I usually took a second look. And here in Dubai, I flipped through my bookmarked pages and decided to ask for a replica of this pretty little number from Lipsy London.

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Okay, to be honest, I actually picked out 5 Lipsy items that I wanted made, and printed pictures of all of them, but I didn’t let myself go visit the tailors until I’d calmed down a bit. Remember, I had no idea how much any of this would cost. By the time I finally did go, I’d narrowed down my Lipsy selections and I also brought along a Charlotte Russe blouse (hey, I’ve also blogged about this blouse before!) because I was curious about having a replica made of that.

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How did I decide which tailor to go to? There are hundreds here, but I found a blog by Caitlin Wilson which heartily recommended City Land Tailors (and now I can see why!) so I called them up, made an appointment, and found my way over there. Their phone number is 04-344-5442.

If you’re using public transit, just take the metro to Al Jafiliya Station, hop in a taxi, and ask for the Satwa Post Office. The ride shouldn’t cost more then ten dirhams unless there’s crazy traffic. Directly across from the post office are a bunch of fabric shops; look for the one called Deepa’s, and if you’re standing facing it go slightly to the right – the entrance to City Land Tailors is in the little alleyway there.

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Raj is an absolute joy to talk to and work with, and great at answering questions and offering advice. After I told/showed him what I was hoping to get done, he told me how much everything would cost (scroll down to the end for the number-crunching, lol), and I decided on one Lipsy replica, plus the blouse replica. I told him exactly what I wanted changed in each design, and what I wanted to stay the same. Raj took me a few blocks away to where City Land has another shop, recently opened. Here I chose the fabric. While I was poking around, I also got some zebra-patterned silk for a couple of headscarves. I almost got pillowcases made too (it can be easy to get carried away!), but I refocused.

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I paid a deposit, they took my measurements, and that was that. 3 weeks later (my choice; they could have done it in 2) I went back to try on both dresses and have alterations done, which is included in the original price. This was my chance to point out any little changes I’d like made (example: I’d asked for 6 inches to be added to the blouse, but that made it too long), and I took my new scarves home.

After 1 more week was the big reveal! And I absolutely love the results, especially the blue dress. I call it Lipsy Lupita, since it reminds me of the dress Lupita Nyong’o wore to the Academy Awards while staying true to its original Lipsy inspiration. The orange one is Firebomb (haha), and look, they stitched up and gave me the excess they’d trimmed off the bottom; it makes a great headband!

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Now for the numbers.

The fabric for the dresses cost me 130 dirhams, or just under $40 Canadian. The making of Lipsy Lupita cost 225 dirhams (about $67 Canadian) and the making of the blouse/dress was 100 dirhams (about $30 Canadian).

Was it worth it? Well, I believe the original Lipsy dress retailed for over $100 Canadian … without a tailor to custom-fit it to my body. My grand total for everything, including the silk headscarves, was under $145 Canadian. I’m curious to see how much tailors back in Toronto charge for similar work.

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Suffice to say, I absolutely recommend Raj and Iqbal and the rest of the City Land Tailors crew for any of you who are in (or near) Dubai, men included! (There was one tall cutie trying on his custom-made blazer and trousers on my last trip there. I love foreign accents. But I digress.) Again, their number is 04-344-5442; call or visit them before 1pm or after 4pm. I hope to come back to this part of the UAE so I can revisit them and have more clothes made; and if you go, please tell them Chattrisse said hi!

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Til next time …

This top cost me $1. Yes, $1. And these headshots will be viewed a bazillion times!

Your Wallet can Thank Me Later

I’m about to do something rare: I’m going to give you some financial advice.

I know. What? Does she have any background in that? Not really, although I’ve been reading some awesome books on it. But as far back as 2009, I’ve been sharing this one rule with people who promptly laugh at me, then stop to think about it, and usually end up telling me it really works. It is one of the tools I am using to become free of consumer debt by March 3, 2016. (Now you all have to hold me accountable to that goal, okay? Thanks!)

When you want something but you’re not sure if you should buy it, there are many tried-and-true methods to determine whether to get it or forget it.

David Chilton, author of The Wealthy Barber, suggests stopping to figure out how many hours it took you to earn the price of the thing you want, and ask yourself if it’s worth that much of your time. Rapper Xzibit said in an interview for VIBE Magazine that if you can’t buy three of whatever it is you’re considering, you shouldn’t buy it, and I think that’s brilliant (yes, even for huge purchases like houses).

Where the hours-to-buy-this rule fails me is that my cash flow is often sporadic, things like royalties and residuals make it hard to say what my hourly wage is, and many of my purchases are things that contribute to my money-earning capacity. Xzibit’s rule is awesome for medium and large price tags, but when the small buys add up — “Oh, these earrings are only $9.95 a pair, of course I can afford three” — you can be fooled into thinking you’re a smart spender when you’re really bleeding to death by pennies.

So what do I do? I look at the price and forecast how many times I’m going to use the thing. The amount of times I will (not might) use it needs to be equal to or greater than the amount of dollars I pay. (NOTE: I realized after writing and editing this piece that Gail Vaz-Oxlade, whose work I admire, has touched on this rule and published it before I did. But my version of the rule, while similar, is better *sticking my tongue out* so keep reading! And if you’re familiar with Gail’s “‘how much per use’ calculation” keep reading anyway, because I’d love to hear how you think this stacks up against it.)

A dollar per use. It’s so simple, but it works. Say there’s an all-white party coming up and I see a gorgeous white clutch. It’s on sale for $19.99 and there’s no tax. Should I get it?

“Well, I’ll wear it to tomorrow night’s party for sure. And maybe to one more all-white thing this summer, and I have a couple of other outfits it could go with” … If I cannot see myself using it 20 times before it gets dirty, lost, ruined, whatever, it goes back on the shelf.

This blouse is a great example. It cost me less than $25 and I’ve worn it to numerous meetings, at least 2 auditions, at least 2 dates, at least 2 performances, a news taping, a party (probably more than one), a family reunion, plus literally countless other times. And I still love it!

Not only does this curb impulse shopping, it helps you focus on quality over quantity of stuff. Shopping for fall boots on a budget? Don’t get the adorable expensive suede ones, because you can’t wear them on wet or muddy days and they’ll be back in the closet before you know it. Shopping for winter boots instead? Here in Toronto, you can easily wear those 100 times in a year, so you don’t have to be as frugal — especially if they’re good enough (waterproof, warm, comfortable, the heel doesn’t wear down easily, etc) to last you several winters. If you’re buying a new piece of equipment, seriously considering how many times you’ll use it before you upgrade again. It might be worth getting the better model now, especially if you make money with it and you’ll soon receive from it more money than you paid to get it.

Honestly, how many of you have closets full of clothes you’ve only worn once, drawers full of gadgets you never use, things you bought to go with other things that ended up just draining your bank account? Stop it. Your money is worth more than that.

If you’re shopping for children, I advise using this rule even more. Sure it’s back-to-school season and everybody wants new stuff, but will she grow out of that jacket before she wears it enough times to make it worth the purchase? He asked for this game for his birthday, but does he tend to get bored with new games after a week and never play them again? We’re all going to spend and we’re all going to shop, but if we do it more carefully we can feel better about it after.

I’m a big fan of dollar stores, especially since adopting my rule. Most things there work just as well as their other-store counterparts. When my designer classes case got really beat-up from living in my purse, I found a new one at Dollarama. Cost: $1.13, taxes in. Uses: 760 and counting.

As with all rules, there is an exception. When pictures are going to be taken, or video, you have no way of measuring how many people will see you wearing or using that purchase, so go nuts. I plan on getting married once; I don’t expect to find a wedding dress for $1. But I think you’ll find if you use my rule regularly, you’ll also get better at not going over-the-top when it comes to your other spending.

Let’s look at this pic again. The top cost me $1. Yes, one dollar. And these headshots will be viewed a bazillion times!

Now, my dollar-per-use rule does have a serious flaw when it comes to buying food and buying experiences — clearly most meals are only eaten once (although I adore leftovers) and I don’t have the knowledge or the desire to figure out how many different muscles and organs will “use” a plate of food; and how am I supposed to know whether the trip to Puerto Rico will be worth that special sale price? These are times when David Chilton and Xzibit’s rules will probably serve you best.

But I do advocate this from years of personal experience. The amount of times you will use it should be equal to or greater than the amount of dollars you pay. (Convert from other currencies if necessary, lol.) Try it out for yourself and let me know how it goes!