Because everything about this is awesome.

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Top 10 Albums of 2013

The time of year has come again for me to make a list of the tunes that have dominated my speakers over the past year. Often my favorite albums correlate with the live shows I’ve seen, since I always try to intimately get to know a new album before I see a band perform it. Inevitably, there are two or three albums that dominate my waking hours and keep me from getting out there and listening to new stuff. This year, Rhye’s Woman, Arcade Fire’s Reflektor and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories became the subjects of my obsession.

I’m getting ready to take a big, long vacation and it couldn’t come at a better time. For one, it’s freezing out and I’m escaping winter. Secondly, as my favorite sources of music news and reviews start to release their top 10 / 25 / 50 / 100 albums of the year, the list of albums I’ve somehow overlooked over the past year is growing and I get to refresh my iPod with tons of new music. So far on my list: Tennis, Grizzly Bear, Childish Gambino, M.I.A., Burial, Crystal Antlers, Volcano Choir and Juana Molina; these are the artists that will keep me company on planes, trains and beaches.

I was looking back on my favorite albums of 2012 and I realize that I’m still listening to those albums. My favorite albums of 2013 will no doubt remain on rotation, because a favorite album is one that you never tire of. Albums where after each play, you change your mind on which is your favorite track and each new listen has you noticing a different riff, new lyrics and new layers – these are worthy of being favorites.

Once again, in no particular order (because that is just a migraine waiting to happen), my top 10 albums of 2013:

2013 top 10

  1. Rhye – Woman
  2. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
  3. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
  4. Tegan & Sara – Hearthrob
  5. Arctic Monkeys – AM
  6. Haim – Days Are Gone
  7. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
  8. Austra – Olympia
  9. Local Natives – Hummingbird
  10. Kid Cudi – Indicud

Pantone’s Colour of the Year: Radiant Orchid

Pantone recently announced its 2014 colour of the year and as a devotee of 2013’s stunning emerald green, I immediately went into colour mourning. Radiant orchid? Sure, this light pinky purple hybrid could be pretty in the spring, but the colour of the year? I wasn’t convinced. So off to google I went.

While I standby my initial reaction to the colour’s lavender leaning shades, to the extent its “radiance” errs on the side of fuchsia, I’ve decided to get on board. Whatever your colour preferences, there’s no need to wait for warmer weather (or even for the colour’s official debut in the new year). A smoky purple is super cozy with knit greys and winter whites and a brighter magenta tone pops against black. Give it a test run this winter as you’re likely to be seeing a lot of it come spring.

radiant orchid

The Awesome Guide to Gift Giving

Last year we compiled a series of detailed gift guides for the host/hostess, the sports nut, the person who has everything, the fashionista, the foodie, the world traveller, and the music lover.  This year we’re going to let you in on our favourite places to pick up unique and specialty gifts, both in store and on-line.  Some of these shops win huge bonus points for helping you check off multiple recipients all in one go and if you’re not a fan of the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, not to worry, you won’t find a single one of these places in the mall.  Yay for (quasi) independent retailers!

Online

Etsy: This site gets mentioned in what feels like every other post, and for that reason, needs no introduction. We love Etsy for just about anything handmade, but in particular for accessories, art prints, stationary and small home decor items. Check out Pomp & Ceremony for awesome Liberty of London pocket squares and ties, Shay D Design for funky bohemian jewelry, Alexandra Ferguson for cheeky throw pillows, Arkens Jewelry Box for microthin gold and silver stacking rings, LoVintage Finds for awesome vintage decor, and JM Barclay for affordable photographic prints.

PicMonkey Collage

Uncommon Goods: This site is home to a huge array of unique and unusual gift ideas at a variety of price points. Many items are quirky and highly specialized, so if you’re looking for a gift for a music loving wino or a sailing chef, this is the place. Uncommon Goods has something for everyone, from your free spirited sister to your introverted uncle.  I am personally a fan of the wide array of fun foodie focused gifts, from a molecular gastronomy kit to an epic artisal salt chest.

In Toronto

The Distillery District Christmas Market and Distillery Shops: I have purchased some of my best gifts ever (last year’s tin can banjo was a major point scorer) during the holiday market in the Distillery District. On now until December 15th, the market opens the district up to small retailers and artists who sell their wares in huts placed along the cobblestone roads alongside the permanent shops. I’m a big fan of Blackbird Vintage for pretty vintage inspired gifts and Jacob & Sebastian for amazing high end bath products and candles, but the district is yet another goldmine for hostess gifts and food lovers. The beautiful, rustic decor, mulled wine, and gourmet food huts also go along way to making this a prime holiday shopping destination.

Distillery-Wide

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Niagara’s Wines

This past weekend, we gathered Kelly’s closest girlfriends for a weekend to celebrate her upcoming nuptials in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This post isn’t meant to be a play by play of the weekend’s activities and events, though.  Rather, the time away served as a great reminder of the fantastic wines this region of Niagara produces. With the holidays and New Year around the corner, I thought I’d share my favorites, whether to take to a party or to pour a glass (or three) and enjoy in your cozy home with dinner as the temperature dips outside.

wine collageI should preface this by saying I am by no means an expert. I know a little about tannins (bitterness), sweetness, acidity, weight and the very basics where wine pairings are concerned. But let me to point you in two directions for more information: your local LCBO staff are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful and a visit to the wineries themselves is extra special (not to mention much cheaper to buy the wine).

This weekend we traveled around to a handful of vineyards with Niagara Getaways. Jeff, our tour guide, was really informative and entertaining, and incorporated larger and more well-known, award-winning wineries in our tour along with smaller ones (Between the Lines, as an example, only sells out of their store and online). Taking the tour allowed us all to sample the wines as much as we’d like without having to spit out our samples and worry about driving. Of course, by the 5th winery, our discerning tastes were long gone. If you take an afternoon tour, you may be lucky enough to catch a gorgeous sunset like we did – picture perfect against the vineyards.

barrell sunset

And here you have it.. my favorite Niagara wines: Continue reading