A visit from….Joanna Track

We love a savvy business woman, so we were super excited when Joanna Track popped up to the fourth floor to tell us all about her latest venture, Dealuxe. Read on to learn more about this inspirational lady.

Joanna is the co-founder and CEO of Dealuxe. She has over 15 years experience in marketing, business strategy, branding and advertising.

After earning a BA in Mathematics at the University of Western Ontario and an MBA in Finance at Schulich School of Business, she worked in the marketing departments of a variety of companies including The Loyalty Group (AIR MILES) and Club Monaco, before landing at Ogilvy & Mather. Joanna built a career at Ogilvy over six years, working on key global accounts, including Amex, FedEx and SAP, doing everything from Brand Advertising to Direct Marketing to Web. Her stint at Ogilvy took her to New York City, where she worked for a year as an Account Director and honed her skills as a marketer, before returning to the Toronto office in the same role.

Joanna’s entrepreneurial spirit grew strong and in 2004, Sweetspot was born.  Seven years, three websites (Sweetspot, Sweetmama, Sweethome), six newsletters, and over 100,000 subscribers later, Sweetspot.ca is the ultimate destination for Canadian women to stay in the know about what’s new and fabulous in their city.  In July 2006, Rogers Publishing recognized this success and purchased a stake in the company, and then acquired the remainder of the company in early 2011.

Joanna has become one of the most well-known and respected digital entrepreneurs in Canada.  She is often invited to speak at business and consumer events and is frequently featured in the media on entrepreneurial and digital business matters.

Twitter: @DealuxeCEO

Where did your inspiration for Dealuxe.ca come from?
As a consumer I was always frustrated with the process of shopping in the US because of unknown duties, returns and shipping fees.  I realized there was a gap in the Canadian marketplace to offer a premier online experience eliminating the barriers from shopping in the states.


What is your idea of a “savvy shopper”?
1. High and Low – someone who knows how to pair investment pieces with the trend of the moment.
2. Versatility – know how to wear one item in many different ways.  Maximize your statement pieces.
3. Confidence – wear what’s right for you and avoid making impulse purchases just because something is trendy.


You were dubbed a “Yummy Mummy” by the Toronto Star. What are your fashion tips for moms?

Try to invest in items that fit well and are functional.  For instance, a classic trench coat, like the Smythe Double Breasted Nylon Jacket, or a pair of dark denim skinnies like the Rich and Skinny Sleek Denim.  


Accessorizing is also key.  It can take your outfit from casual to chic in an instant.


What is the first section of the newspaper that you read?

The Style section! Followed by the business section, of course.


You have mentioned that your grandmother was a shopaholic. What is one trend of her era that you would be timid to try out? One that you would love to try out?
Trend to try: super glam style. Heels, red lipstick, dresses, etc. They knew how to dress to impress back then.


Trend to avoid: I would skip the fur fetish. That was very popular in my grandmothers’ day, but not so much now.


Fave spots to shop in Toronto?
Dealuxe, Corbo, Nyla, Joe Fresh and Gee Beauty.



Thanks Joanna, we loved chatting with you. Come back soon!

*We’re giving away $50 to spend on wonderful items from Dealuxe.ca. To win, tweet us @rockitpromo and tell us what you’d love to buy!
UPDATE: Thanks to all who participated. The winner is @kristinabreckon. Congratulations!

 

A visit from… Jessica Jensen

When news reached our office that our new neighbour was none other than handbag designer Jessica Jensen, well, we were overjoyed. Why? A few reasons:


1. Creative folk seem to flock to our home (The Burroughes Building) and we simply love the energy that comes along with them.

2. She is absolutely delightful, genuine, humble, sweet and passionate about what she does. She even brought us heart-shaped cookies upon visiting!



3. There are handbags for sale on the fourth floor. ‘Nuff said.

Here’s what we learned from our visit with JJ:


There are some designer collaborations coming down the pipeline:

  • New York-based designer Alexander Berardi and Jensen are teaming up once again to come out with some new designs (they did LGFW spring 2010 together last year). 
  • Arthur Mendonça for Jessica Jensen. “Arthur is wonderful, because he catapults me in directions that I wouldn’t have otherwise gone. It’s always fun to work with another designer for that reason; different creative philosophies and directions lead us to be pushed in new directions. It’s awesome.” Cheers to that.
  • Another venture Jensen has taken on is designing for the International Film Fashion Festival (IFFF). Four designers have been asked to pair up with a local filmmaker and design a handbag that goes hand in hand with their short film.

On the horizon, expect to see more evening clutches that work for day or night, and a move to metallic leathers, textures and iPad cases and sleeves. With tanneries in Italy, and suppliers in NYC, Japan, Hong Kong and China, life is busy for this lady.

The door to Jensen’s groovy office.

And we all love a good piece of gossip – rumour has it that Jensen may soon be running a Canadian company’s handbag division, designing collections for this unnamed company alongside her own brand. 

Readers, keep your ears to the ground and your eyes peeled.  

-xoxo, Gossip Girl(s)

A Visit From… L’Unita head chef Stephen Gouzopoulos

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Ask Stephen Gouzopoulos, head chef of L’Unità restaurant, and he won’t contest it. However, cooking and making people happy is a passion of his, be it man, woman, or his wife, who ceaselessly motivates him.

On the fourth floor, we’re pretty much obsessed with the Food Network and, well, all things food. We’re fascinated by the life of a chef, be it starting their day early at a fisherman’s wharf to score the freshest catch of the day, or where they eat when they’re not feeding us.
We asked Stephen to give us a day in his life. Here’s what it’s like to walk in this chef’s footsteps:
8 a.m. – Wake up, take dog for walk and feed.

8:30 a.m. – Have breakfast with my wife, who teaches Pilates, yoga and reiki.

9:30 a.m. – Coffee, check emails and what’s new in the city food-wise.
10:30 a.m. – Get ready for work, walk my dog again, and head to work.
Noon – Arrive at resto, check stocks, set up kitchen.
12:30 p.m. – Accept produce, order check product (very important) and sign invoice.
12:45 p.m. – Set station, get ready for prep.
1 p.m. – Start short ribs braising.
1:30 p.m. – Start meat and fish butchery.
2 p.m. – Accept remainder of deliveries, check product.
2:15 p.m. – Head out to Riverdale Farmers Market, talk with farmer Ted. Gather produce     for remainder of week.

3:15 p.m. – Back at resto, unload produce. Continue to prep for night’s service.

4:30 p.m. – Review specials with FOH (front of house).

5 p.m. – Put up staff meal (tonight it’s fried chicken and salad).

5:15 p.m. – Set station for service and do station checks (check other cooks’ work and stations).

5:30 p.m. – Service begins.

5:30 to 10 p.m. – Service: orchestrate service, ensure food quality is up to standards and control the flow of the food and FOH.

10:30 p.m. – Pack up station and clean kitchen.

11:30 p.m. – Place orders for following day.

Midnight – Go home for dinner and time with my wife.

For those dreaming of becoming the next top chef, start practicing with a hand-picked recipe from L’Unità:

Pork chop with braised escarole, honey roasted shallots and pine nuts

– Butcher bone-in pork loin into 12-oz. chops.

– Brine pork for seven hours.

Brine

500 grams salt
400 grams sugar
4 cardamom pods
Half a bunch of thyme
3 bay leaves
10 peppercorns
1 head garlic
4 litres water


– Bring all ingredients to a boil. Ensure salt and sugar are dissolved and cool.

– Once cooled, fully submerge pork chops and place weight on top to keep chops covered in brine for seven hours.

– Remove and rinse.


Escarole

– Blanch escarole in salted boiling water and shock in an ice bath.

– Reserve for later.

Honey roasted shallots

5 large shallots
4 tbsp honey
2 tbsp olive oil
Half a bunch of thyme
2 bay leaves
2 cloves garlic

– Peel and quarter shallots. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Celsius. In a large frying pan, heat honey and oil over medium. Add garlic, bay and thyme. Once honey is melted, add shallots.

– Toss to coat shallots in mixture and place in oven on the bottom rack. Roast for 10 minutes, or until a dark golden colour is achieved.

To finish the dish
– Grill mark the chop and then place on pan in the oven eight to 12 minutes for medium.

– In a small frying pan, heat up 1 tsp of olive oil and add blanched escarole. Season the escarole with salt and pepper. Add 1 tbsp of honey roasted shallots and 1 tsp of toasted pine nuts. Cook until all ingredients are hot. Taste for seasoning.

Plate the dish and top the pork chop with Kozlik’s maple mustard. Enjoy.

*Our pork comes from Perth Pork. A heritage pig farmer in Perth, Ontario hand-delivers the meat every week.

A visit from Consolidated Credit: Diamonds and debt don’t have to go hand in hand!

Just when we think we have no more holidays to buy for, up pops Valentine’s Day. The idea of using our credit cards or putting out cash for gifts and dates gives us chills. It amost makes us want to do away with Cupid altogether. Luckily, we chatted with Ann Dennis, Communications & Public Relations Manager for Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, who gave us awesome tips for keeping our budgets in check. Read on for Ann’s advice.

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Cupid’s arrow is soaring, signaling it’s time to search for the brightest and best Valentine’s Day gift – otherwise known as something very sparkly for someone you love. However, if you haven’t saved enough to pay for that little gem, it could become the cause of unwanted financial stress on your heart and your bank account. 



“Money worries add enough stress on a daily basis. Don’t add to it by buying a Valentine’s gift that leaves you debt-laden,” said Jeffrey Schwartz, executive director of Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada, Inc. “One of the keys to financial heart happiness is changing habits and attitudes towards money.”

Like Dustin, an alumnus of Consolidated Credit Counseling Service of Canada’s Debt Management Program, who has a new outlook on spending. “My wife and I are saving for a house this year. To help stay within our budget this Valentines Day, we’re staying home and enjoying a romantic movie night with pizza and wine. The time spent together will far outweigh the value of diamonds!”

Here are a few more ideas that will help take the pressure off your wallet:
Surf the internet, not the stores. There are so many free e-card websites out there with creative cards – you’re bound to find more than one to fit the occasion. In fact, send multiple messages to keep your special someone smiling all day long.
Home is where the heart is. Follow Dustin’s lead: pick up a bottle of wine, order pizza and rent a romantic movie. Or sub in boozy hot chocolate and a roaring fire – whatever it is that takes you and your partner to your happy place! 

Take a walk down memory lane. Celebrate on Sunday, February 13 instead, and spend the day visiting the places in the city where you met, had your first kiss, the coffee shop where you spent hours getting to know each other or took your first walk in the park.

Exchange homemade presents. Receiving a gift that’s homemade and comes from the heart is more meaningful than receiving something store-bought that doesn’t fit right or you don’t really like. 

For more money-saving inspriation, visit Consolidated Credit Counseling Services of Canada’s Facebook page or follow them on Twitter: @debt_free_2day.

A visit from… Dr. Sandy Skotnicki

Nothing feels better in the dead of winter than a little cosmetic pick-me-up. Whether it’s a bright new red lipstick, quick spray tan or fresh head of highlights, treating yourself is a surefire way to up the cheer levels.

But sometimes we need a little more than a new tube of gloss. Lucky for us, Dr. Sandy Skotnicki at Bay Dermatology Centre, visited the fourth floor and offered us a few long-term ways to freshen up winter-weary skin. Here are a few of her top tips to help you look and feel great.

Dr. Sandy Skotnicki. Photo by George Pimentel.
Twitter: @BayDermCentre

Hollywood Glow
Get your glow back with the amazing Intraceutical Oxygen Facial.

Image courtesy of Intraceuticals.
This facial is used by celebrities, high-profile spas and dermatologists worldwide. The treatment is gentle and non-invasive, using hyperbaric oxygen to hydrate (a must-have for Canadian winters) and infuse skin with vitamins A, C, E, and green tea extracts. All of these elements help fight free radical and environmental damage. The procedure also helps stimulate collagen and elastin production, which reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The best part is that results are pretty instantaneous and last for up to three weeks!
Before and after. Image courtesy of Intraceuticals.

Freshly scrubbed
Formulab is a brand new skin care line – cleanser, toner and acne treatment. The simple skincare regimen is made with the best ingredients to achieve specific results. While “natural” and “organic” are always seen as preferable, many people don’t realize that even natural ingredients like tea tree oil or lavender can cause allergic reactions. That said, the line does steer clear of unnecessary synthetic ingredients (like fragrance or dyes).



The line contains benzyol peroxide, still proven to be one of the best ways to treat acne. One of the best features of the line is that every ingredient included is listed, with an explanation as to why it’s there. Neat.

Email lisa@rockitpromo.com for where to buy or for more info. 

Go big or go home
If you want to look more trim, but hate the thought of a gym routine, we have something a little more instant and a little less work-intensive. We all know you can’t spot train pesky areas that just can’t seem to get as tight and toned as you’d like.

To solve this common problem, Dr. Skotnicki offers UltraShape Contour Version 3 fat reduction and body contouring. This very gentle, pain-free treatment uses ultrasonic waves to break down fat cells, permanently. You can target your abdomen, or inner and outer thighs with the 60 to 90 minute procedure, and you don’t even need anesthesia. There is also no recovery period, so you can strut out of the office. After three treatments, you can see an average of four to ten centimeters. Seriously!  

Dr. Skotnicki’s Bay Dermatology Centre has become a mecca for beauty junkies. Book one of these winter pick-me-ups, and start your year looking and feeling better than ever.

TIFF ’10: A visit from….Karen Kwan

TIFF is madness! While we love the running around that goes hand in hand with this amazing festival, we still need some help calming down and feeling healthy for these 10 days. Never is this more true than mid-festival (read: right now), so we invited Karen Kwan, health and beauty expert, up to the fourth floor to give us tips. Here are her top four methods for looking and feeling great, all festival long. 

Get physical.
The films may inspire you, but all that sitting on your derriere for hours on end is bad for your health. Take a break from movie-watching to burn off all of those cocktails and canapés you’ve been inhaling at all the TIFF parties (bonus: you’ll relieve some stress while you’re at it). Trust me: You never regret working out, right? Right.

Simply look gorgeous.
Don’t stress about being ready for photo ops. If you can fit in visits to the complimentary beauty suites, fantastic! (I know I’m making a pit stop at the Murale/Sally Hershberger suite at the Intercontinental Hotel, fo’ sho!). If not, you can still always be ready for the paparazzi by picking the right cosmetics. The beauty essentials I know I can count on include Stila Long Wear Liquid Lip Color in Patina, L’Oréal Studio Secrets Professional Magic Perfecting Base (keeps my oily T-zone nice and matte), and I know I won’t have to worry about my manicure chipping because I’ve already got my nails done in OPI Axxium Soak-Off Gel Lacquer.

Satisfy your sweet tooth.
Not something my dietitian would approve of, but sometimes something sweet is the only thing that’ll soothe my frayed nerves. My fave cupcakes are from Sweet Bliss in Leslieville.  They are totally worth the jaunt over to the east end. If you’re under high stress and prefer something with an actual proven health benefit, keep a bar of dark chocolate in your handbag. Eating an ounce and half of dark chocolate a day for two weeks has been shown to reduce levels of stress hormones.

Get some fresh air.
And the rooftop of the Thompson Hotel, mojito in hand, doesn’t count. Put down the cocktail and seek out some greenery, TIFFsters. Take five in a park or garden and it’ll help lift your mood, according to a University of Essex study.
 

Bio:
Kwan quit her job in marketing in 2001 to pursue a career in magazines. From her first gig at Redwood Custom Communications, where she worked on publications for clients including Sears, Home Depot and Scotts, she went on to work on the launch of FQ magazine. In 2005, she landed at FLARE magazine in the copy department. During her four years at FLARE, Kwan, in her role as health and lifestyle editor, discovered her interest in healthy living, including a passion for running – something she considers a blessing, considering her even bigger passion for eating. Currently, Kwan works as a freelance writer, and in December 2009 the Montreal native launched her blog Health & Swellness, where she covers “health, beauty and anything else that catches my fancy – that’s where the ‘swellness’ comes into play.”

healthandswellness.com
Twitter: @healthswellness

A visit from… It All Starts With Butter

Being an office full of PR girls, we’re always curious about how our male counterparts spend their days. We invited our good friend, Shawn Rusich, up to the fourth floor to spill the beans on what a day in the life of a gentleman food blogger/PR guru looks like (it looks pretty good).

It All Starts With Butter is a lifestyle blog that focuses on food-related topics, a long-time passion of mine. I created it as a hobby (and an outlet from my public relations career) where I could freely offer my opinion to those like-minded. I have also started contributing to The Affluent Journal, which adds fashion, technology and beauty to my repertoire.

Here is what a typical day looks like, including my favourite Toronto spots:

No morning starts without my French press. When I wake up, I freshly grind the coffee and prepare my Bodum. Having already checked my iPhone calendar in bed, I am now replying to any time-sensitive emails for the day.

I edit blog posts from the night before one last time to make sure they are perfect. Then I tweet about the day’s events. A “good morning” tweet to the lovely girls at rock-it is, of course, part of that.

I receive an email from Hamilton Beach asking me if I would like to do a reader giveaway on my blog. This immediately reminds me of last month’s Le Creuset giveaway, and how I need to follow up with the winner to see if she has received it. She has. I adore Le Creuset.

I have an 11 a.m. with my favourite client at Crafted by Te-Aro to discuss the look and feel of his new packaging. He says it is too green but I disagree. We settle in the middle anyway.

Now it is lunchtime with my best gal at La Palette’s new location on Queen West. We brainstorm, strategize and eat. Then we eat some more. Our conversation reminds me that I need to meet with the rest of The Affluent Journal team ASAP.

I quickly leave the restaurant and am off to the gym. I try to regularly plan a workout with my trainer Candice at Totum but she has to cancel today – sigh.

Once I finish up at the gym, I head to my loft to send out some client documents. Hit send. Now I have to rush to get ready for tonight. Quick shower. I am looking a bit rundown. Enter Nanoblur. Thank goodness this stuff really does work!

I am nearly late arriving at The Thompson Toronto Rooftop to drop off some print approvals to a client, who is there for an after-work cocktail as per my recommendation. I wish I could stay, but have a prior engagement at The Drake Hotel. Tonight is their annual Garden Party and I cannot miss out!

The evening winds down, but not before a quick stop at my favourite local, The House on Parliament. A pint of Waupoos with friends always helps after a stressful day.

I later head home and entertain the idea of watching a movie, but alas two more blog posts need to be written, a press release and an article for an upcoming issue of Saveur.

On the agenda tomorrow is dinner at Nota Bene, one of my top 10 restaurants. One o’clock rolls around. I have fallen asleep. Laptop perched on my lap. Sigh. Another exciting early morning awaits tomorrow.

Website: http://www.itallstartswithbutter.com/ 
Facebook: www.facebook.com/itallstartswithbutter
Twitter: www.twitter.com/Shawn_Rusich
Email: Shawn@buttercommunications.ca