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Let’s be honest. Some of the boutiques in downtown Halifax (as in other cities) are intimidating. Online shops have been appealing to me lately because a) I don’t have a lot of free time and b) I want to look at my options on my own time without someone shadowing my every move.

An added benefit of shopping online is not having to deal with snobby shop girls. Having worked in clothing retail, at upscale locations like Hazelton Lanes in Toronto, I can make this statement without impunity. Granted, some of the clientèle were equally as snobby (please, don’t get me started). And really, if I’m going to be spending my money on anything, I don’t need to feel like I have to bring in my pedigree papers just to get through the front doors.

By DKNY

By DKNY

Back in December I discovered Bluefly which dubs itself “the ultimate hookup for the fashion obsessed.” Now, that’s not exactly me but I’d been searching for the perfect winter coat to replace an almost decade old one that I finally had to admit was outdated. So, here’s what I’ve got to say about the online shopping experience so far:

I caught a Boxing Day sale and was very excited to save a whopping 57% off retail value. Since it was my first order with them I found a promotional code that covered the shipping cost too. Then, recently there was a President’s Day sale at Bluefly and Cokebaby treated me to two tops and a dress as a Valentine’s gift (yes, I know, I’m a very lucky girl and he’s a very sweet boy). Both shipments arrived at my doorstep in under a week and were everything I was hoping for.

Even though we paid a fraction of the retail price, once the $30 shipping and then brokerage fees are factored in, the savings aren’t what you see at face value. At least not within Canada. You’re still getting good quality designer brands for about half the cost but I’m going to have to shop around to see if this is really the best value for my dollar. Not that I shop that much anyway but I like to feel that my dollar is going as far as it can for what I’m buying.

On a side note, an interesting tool they have on the site is an online shop assistant. If you’re ogling a piece of merchandise for too long a little pop-up box appears asking if you require assistance. For those who are intimidated by technology this is a very helpful tool. It’s also nice to know that if I ever have a question there’s help just a click away. Plus, unlike real shop girls she won’t judge me for slumming it in my regular clothes (or, more likely, my pyjamas).

Overall, I’m not totally convinced that smaller items are worth it unless you buy a number of items together. However, for big ticket pieces like my winter coat, I think for the quality it’s a bargain compared to what I might have paid otherwise.

Have you shopped for clothes online before? If so, what’s your experience been?

[Next week, as a special treat, I’ll be having fashion & style week on East Coast By Choice. A few lovely bloggers have agreed to post about their views on style (or lack thereof). Check back from March 2-6 to see what East Coasters have to say about the topic.]

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Last week Cokebaby and I treated ourselves to dinner and a movie up in Bayer’s Lake. While I mostly go for vegetarian fare when I’m cooking for myself or going out to restaurants there are exceptions. And, truthfully, they mostly come in burger form. This time I tried out Señor Jack’s Jalapeño Burger from Jack Astor’s with a side garden salad (who can resist the curly rings of pickled beets, huge croûtons, and blackberry dressing?). Best. Burger. Ever. There was just enough of a spicy kick, complimented with a sweet pickle relish. I was in burger heaven, oblivious to all the cows giving me stink-eye.

Official movie poster

Official movie poster

But the meal wasn’t even the best part of the night. It was the movie Slumdog Millionaire (which took home a whole bunch of Oscars last night). As the title of this post oh-so-subtly suggests, this isn’t a critique of the film in any way, shape, or form. Except, that is, to say you should probably go see this film if you haven’t already. And if you have, well, you know what I mean.

Oh, also, you have to watch this end credit sequence. And, finally, I want the yellow scarf that Latika wears with a white t-shirt and jeans. It’s the must have fashion accessory of the season IMHO.

We went into the movie not knowing very much about it besides the praise of friends (and seemingly the world). I didn’t even realize it was based on a book originally published as Q & A by Vikas Swarup (HarperCollins). Being a bookworm, it brought to mind a few good reads I’ve picked up over the course of the past few years. So, if you enjoy(ed) the movie and want to read books that are similar, check out these titles:

The Song of Kahunsha by Anosh Irani (Doubleday)—Upon hearing that the orphanage that has cared for him since he was an infant is to be torn down by land developers, Chamdi runs away in search of his father. The sheltered world that he leaves behind is a far cry from the streets of Bombay. It’s a world of violence and destitution. But he meets two street children who take him under their wing. Together they scrape by and search for a means to escape poverty.

Shining Hero by Sara Banerji (HarperCollins)—A well-to-do adolescent girl is charmed by a Bollywood star passing through her village. Nine months later she is horrified to discover she’s giving birth to a baby that she subsequently sends down-river. The infant boy, Karna, is discovered by a woman desperate for a child of her own and who takes him in as her own. But fortunes turn quickly and soon he is forced to seek out his birth mother who has since married and had another child.

The Toss of a Lemon by Padma Viswanathan (Random House)—Inspired by her own family’s history, the author creates a fictional tale of a child-bride who is soon widowed. According to the rules of her caste she must live out much of the rest of her life like a ghost: wearing white, and from dawn to dusk she is not permitted to contaminate herself with human touch, not even to comfort her small children. Her son grows up to reject the principles of caste and welcomes the ways of a modern India, eventually causing a rift between them.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Random House)—Shifting between 1969 and 1993, this is the story of fraternal twins growing up in the state of Kerala. It’s a complex book that captures a lot of interesting points about the period, such as the Communism movement, the caste system, and the Syrian Christian way of life. The author also uses Malayalam words throughout which adds to the richness of the book.

So, there you have it. A few extras to take away after you’ve seen the movie. Do you have any recommendations for books, music, or films to go with Slumdog Millionaire?

P.S. I’m also loving the movie soundtrack.

No, it’s not the sushi. And for me, that’s saying a lot. Those of you who know me in real life know that I love sushi. I could probably eat it every day and not be tired of it.

But this winter, I’ve been hooked on a menu item that most people don’t even look at when visiting the umpteen million sushi restaurants that abound in the city of Halifax. I’m talking about the meal in a bowl: udon/soba noodles.

We’ve been hit with a pretty brutal winter with wind chill factors that I’ve mostly seen further west of here. And frankly, there’s nothing better for it than to sit down to a giant bowl of hearty soup. And the varieties are plenty. Up until recently my favourite was the vegetable tempura variety.

From valvados on Flickr

From valvados on Flickr

One night I got adventurous and tried out something even better: nabeyaki udon. And I’ve been on a kick ever since. Nabeyaki udon is basically a personal size Japanese hot-pot topped with tempura shrimp, an egg, and a variety of other ingredients. Every restaurant has their own concoction. My personal favourite is from Milamodo (because I love fried tofu) but Doraku and Sushi Shige make a pretty mean bowl of it, too.

Honestly, I can’t think of anything better to warm and fill you up on a cold winter’s day. And, as an additional bonus, your friends sitting across the table from you will envy you your gastronomical prowess. That, I can almost guarantee.

[Love Twitter and sushi? Well, look out Halifax ’cause here comes Twushi. Due to the snow storm, the event was postponed from last night to next week. Check out the Halifax Tweetup page for more details on this and other Twitter related events.]

Veggie Plate

Veggie Plate

A short while ago we checked out SnauBar Lebanese Cuisine to celebrate the new job of Cokebaby’s brother.

The restaurant is located in the Dresden Row mall (the one with Pete’s Frootique). Originally, there were rumours that a second location of Kababji was going to open up in the spot but I guess plans fell through.

SnauBar, pronounced snowbar, means pine (according to my Lebanese in-law who was with us that night). The name itself is a fun play on the word and the greenish mosaic tiled back-splash behind bar emphasizes it. The interior is elegant enough with pretty murals in archways along the walls. However, there’s something about the stark white of just about everything else that made the place seem kind of sterile. It certainly doesn’t have the the same luxe feel of Mezza Restaurant but I’m in a fight with that particular establishment right now.

We were the only people in the place and, in a way, it was fortunate for us as the server was not exactly on his game. That said, he was pleasant and had the legitimate excuse that he had only been working there for a few days. While there were ample choices for cold and hot mezza to share we decided to start with appetizers for the group of six and then move on to individual main courses. (As a side note, the website boasts “Mezza & Arrak Tuesdays” but there was no sign of what that meant when we arrived. And, yes, it was Tuesday.)

For drinks, I started with the  SnauBar-Tini (Pears vodka, white cranberry juice & lime cordial) followed by a glass of Villa Mura Valpollicello with the meal. The martini was very yummy while the wine was pretty mediocre and, in retrospect, a glass of white would have gone down better with the meal.

For appetizers we shared: chicken livers (served with pomegranate molasses), kebbeh (cracked wheat and ground beef, stuffed with more meat, onions, and pinenuts), and frogs provincial (fried frog legs served with garlic, cilantro, and lemon juice). Prices ranged between $6-10 each.

It was all very tasty but the livers were a bit dry and the promise of pomegranate molasses was lost on our palates. It was a first for me in terms of the frog legs and I’d be willing to try them again. The idea that they’re anything like chicken is completely misleading though. While they have the texture of poultry, they’re actually moister, and the taste is quite mild.

The special on the menu is described as: “A homemade Lebanese meal. Prepared fresh daily.” What it fails to mention is that it’s just something off the menu, or at least it was in this case, rather than a special dish made by the chef for that day. Most of the in-laws went with the special which turned out to be chicken taouk (marinated chicken breast with garlic and Lebanese spices).

I opted for the veggie plate (grape leaves, veggie kebbe, falafel, and spinach fatayer) and Cokebaby had the lamb shawarma (grilled sliced lamb with garlic and shawarma sauce). I found the falafel a bit dry but otherwise everything else on the plate was devoured appreciatively.

All the mains were served with the choices of rice or potatoes, AND tabbouleh or fattoush salads, AND hummus (chickpea dip) or baba ganouj (roast eggplant dip). Prices ranged between $14-19 each. The meal was delicious and quite filling. Everything was also clearly fresh made. Another bonus is that most of their produce is organic.

Overall, while SnauBar isn’t quite the upscale restaurant that it seems to want to be (and they could have been a bit more generous with the pita bread), the food is tasty and reasonably priced for a nice meal out. Each couple spent between $50-70 before tip and that included at least one alcoholic beverage each.

Compared with Mezza Restaurant the food is about equal but the atmosphere isn’t quite as upscale or warm. However, it does win points for the service which is at least passable and friendly, and the food made it to the table without an arduous wait which is more than I can say for my previous experiences with Mezza. Did I mention that I’m not happy with the level of service at Mezza?

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